Surprise is the beginning of wisdom, and President Obama and his campaign so far are deeply surprising. His presidency is a basket case, a failure with a capital F, and yet he is neck-and-neck with Romney. The only comparable failure since World War II was Jimmy Carter’s—and Carter, it’s true, gave Reagan a tough race in 1980. But Carter at least attracted a stiff primary challenge from Edward Kennedy. And voters were scared of Carter’s opponent (the terrifying extremist Ronald Reagan); they might not be inspired by Romney, but they are comfortable with him. Obama’s showing this year is a surprise from many angles.
The utter failure of this president is rank. History’s most expensive plan ever for buying your way out of recession barely propelled the economy uphill, and now, in a squeal and stench of smoking tires, the Obama Special (sweating, straining, roaring, leaking dollars) is slipping back down again. The president’s signature approach to governing is to ram through some wildly-unpopular measure and then take a bow as the audience hoots. He did it with his famous unreform of healthcare, and again with the blocked Keystone pipeline. His attorney general would be a joke if he weren’t so dangerous, but Obama likes him. The president did give up such unpopular ideas as closing Guantanamo, card-check, a criminal trial for KSM in Manhattan à la P.T. Barnum, cap-and-trade–but only because there was no way to push these things through. (Although when Obama can govern by decree instead of by legislation, he is only too happy. Legislation has always struck him as a monumental bore.)