In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan takes a look at President Obama’s Martha's Vineyard vacation and speculates on his thoughts in view of declining poll numbers, and disillusionment among his supporters.
How could he not be depressed? He has made big mistakes since the beginning of his presidency and has been pounded since the beginning of his presidency. He's got to be full of doubts at this point about what to do. His baseline political assumptions have proved incorrect, his calculations have turned out to be erroneous, his big decisions have turned to dust. He thought they'd love him for health care, that it was a down payment on greatness. But the left sees it as a sellout, the center as a vaguely threatening mess, the right as a rallying cry. He thought the stimulus would turn the economy around. It didn't. He thought there would be a natural bounce-back a year ago, with "Recovery Summer." There wasn't. He thought a toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball struggle over the debt ceiling would enhance his reputation. The public would see through to the dark heart of Republican hackery and come to recognize the higher wisdom of his approach. That didn't happen either.
Nothing worked! And nothing's going to work. He's the smartest guy in the room, but he's got the reverse Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to—well, unsatisfying outcomes.
In a stinging rebuke of the president, Noonan points out his policies and initiatives have turned into abject failures. And she chides him for tone deafness for choosing
Martha’s Vineyard for his vacation getaway, a summer hangout for the well heeled establishment elite, at a time of the nation's suffering.
But the article is more than failures and vacations. It questions whether Obama should continue to seek a second term. Indeed the subhead of the op-ed is, “Is his visit to
Martha's Vineyard a sign that he's giving up?” She concludes her article with an ominous series of statements which are in reality questions for Obama to answer:
In early 2010 this space made much of the president's pre-State of the Union interview with Diane Sawyer, in which she pressed the president about his political predicaments. He said: "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president." I thought at the time: He means it, he can accept being a one-termer.
Maybe he's feeling it now more than ever.
Maybe it means not much will change in terms of his leadership between now and the election.
Maybe he'll be as wilted next year as he was this week.
The question of whether Obama will or should run is the great unspoken among influential Democrats. It goes beyond whether Obama can win. It goes to whether Democrats might lose the Senate on top of the White House. Jimmy Carter’s landslide loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980 cost Democrats the senate. Already senate Democrats are fearful that Obama is sucking the oxygen from big hitter contributors by maxing them out, leaving nothing available for their war chests. Nothing is worse than finding yourself short on funding and having the President's coat tails dragging you down at the same time. It's lose/lose however you look at it.
No Democrat would dare to challenge Obama for the nomination. Democrats almost never take on an incumbent president of their own party, and it would be political suicide to challenge the first ever African American president. For Obama not to run for a second term, the decision would have to come from him, as it did with Lyndon Johnson in the spring of 1968. Still, it could come at the urging of highly trusted confidantes as happened with Nixon.
Whatever the outcome, Peggy Noonan, in her excellent article, has opened the door on a previously taboo subject.