Some of the poll respondents attribute their belief in presidential impotence to the death of optimism during Obama’s term. Defeatism is understandable after his failure to live up to the promises that swept him into the White House. But, the demise of hopefulness after just four years of disappointment and hardship is a premature death. It concedes too soon that inadequacy has become the standard of presidential performance.
To be sure, hard times are difficult or they would be called something else. But, pessimism is easily averted by the knowledge that voters can improve their economic circumstances. Presidents who do not perform adequately only remain in office because voters allow them to remain.
In that regard, even those who believe that the president is a bystander to economic forces do not necessarily let him off the hook. As one respondent said, she is willing to give Romney a chance to see what he can do. That attitude is reflected in a more recent AP-GfK poll that shows Obama losing his long-held advantage over Romney as economic uncertainties increase.
Today, Obama’s response to his fumbling of the economy is to change the subject with a vengeance, attacking Romney with increasingly absurd accusations. The president and his staffers have assailed Romney's religion, his wife, his business record, his patriotism and his wealth. This past week, they claimed he is also either a felon or a liar.
Obama is a Chicago politician, a street brawler whose favorite diversionary weapon is relentless character assassination. He’s also quick to spout a spate of promises, a la 2008, that he can’t keep. Romney responds poorly in a campaign thusly defined because he has no experience in that type of environment. His successes, unlike the president’s, are built on substantive achievements not empty politics. Viewed in that light, Romney’s stumbling retorts to Obama’s escalating personal attacks are actually a point in the challenger’s favor.
One thing is certain. When people begin to accept ineptitude as the nation’s new normal, it’s time to change the occupant of the White House.
See you in the mirror.