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Messaging aside, all of the White House departures come at a time when the administration is beset by a series of assaults attacking its very competency. The backdrop to this scene is the coming release of Bob Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars,” an expose on the administration’s first 18 months. Excerpts have already appeared in the Washington Post, and while the White House says it is pleased with the portrayal of the president, others say the early returns seem to portray an administration out of its depth.
Obama’s problems have gotten so bad that even Jimmy Carter felt compelled to come to his defense. Unfortunately for Obama, it was to accuse all his critics of being fueled, not by honest objections to his policies, but rather by racism. Already under criticism for its use in overplaying the race card, the White House now has to assure already skeptical voters that their opposition to Obama doesn’t necessarily qualify them for membership in the Ku Klux Klan.
Carter then offered his own helpful comparison of the Obama White House to his own administration. In an interview promoting his newly released book “White House Diary,” Carter said, “I overburdened Congress with an array of controversial and politically costly requests. Looking back, I am struck by how many unpopular objectives we pursued.”
In an apparent tag-team effort, Carter’s Vice-President, Walter Mondale, told The New Yorker magazine that there were striking similarities between both administrations saying, “We’re going through this drama again. November might be a disaster.” The last thing Obama needs at this point is to have his presidency compared to what is widely believed to be the worst in modern times. When that happens, it’s probably time to acknowledge the true depths of your problem.
Now, to be evenly balanced, it doesn’t require Jimmy Carter or Walter Mondale to point out the parallels between the two administrations when the handwriting on the wall is clear to any person who either lived through the Carter years or who possesses a modicum of historical knowledge. The similarities between the two are somewhat eerie.
Both men share personal characteristics of iciness and a penchant for being thin-skinned; both were swept into office on a wave of transformational politics that promised to change the tenor of current political dialogue; both inherited bad economies with policy solutions that inflamed the problem; and both men have a common need to scapegoat their own failings.
However, with so much in common, there is one difference between Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. Carter faced a 1980 primary challenger to his run at a second term in the guise of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. While a potential opponent has not yet risen, the fallout from the impending election disaster may leave Obama confronted by that painful reality.
If Democrats truly crash in November and lose the House and/or the Senate, the finger pointing will begin in earnest. At the top of the blame list will be Barack Obama, who will need to answer for his part in the electoral debacle. If he does desire another term and makes a run in 2012, there will be no shortage of challengers willing to take a run at the crown.
For Obama, this threat could come from either wing of the Democratic Party: Centrists appalled at the runaway progressive ideology enmeshed in the party and liberals angered at what they perceive to be Obama’s limited commitment to enact their full agenda,
Of course, all of his political fortunes can still turn around. Two years to recover is an eternity in American politics and much will depend on how Republicans handle their anticipated electoral success and who heads their 2012 presidential ticket. Still, for a president who entered office with near stratospheric approval numbers and a party firmly in control of all levers of government, the plummeting of his political fortunes has been quite breathtaking.
If things continue at this pace, Barack Obama may have one last final thing in common with Jimmy Carter: a one-term presidency.
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