Frank Rich is pretty good this morning:
Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think. That pay freeze made as little sense intellectually as it did politically. It will save the government a scant $5 billion over two years and will actually cost the recovery at least as much, since much of that $5 billion would have been spent on goods and services by federal workers with an average yearly income of $75,000. By contrast, the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the $250,000-plus income bracket will add $80 billion to the deficit in two years, much of which will just be banked by the wealthier beneficiaries.
And even MoDo is on target:
In two days of “don’t ask, don’t tell” hearings, senators discussed the knotty issue of whether gays and straights in the military could shower together without losing battles. Once again, the Democrats waited too long to close the deal, the president showed no leadership, and a campaign promise that was seen as a fait accompli now seems a casualty.
It is the storyline of the year, the incredible inept, tone-deaf and increasingly wimp decline of a presidency in crisis and the death of hope.
Rich coaches his argument in terms of the Stockholm Syndrome, the strange psychological condition under which prisoners begin to identify and sympathize with their captors and abusers. It’s certainly a reasonable explanation for the Presidents’s seeming capitulation at every turn on issues where all the evidence is that the public is on his side and not that of the right.
My own opinion, and I’ve held it for a long time, is that Barack Obama has an almost pathological fear of becoming a victim of the Angry Black Man syndrome and thus allowing his foes to paint him in a fashion sure to frighten a considerable portion of the electorate and to render him a caricature. But since they are doing that already, in new and different ways, why does it matter? That’s why I suggest the feeling is pathological rather than logical. The President’s upbringing and history suggest that he weaved his way through a world in which he was often a stranger, the “different,” by becoming a conciliator and someone who goes out of his way to see all sides of every issue (perhaps even when there are not really two sides). He’s still dancing with the one he brung to the dance and it’s not working.
Pop psych, admittedly, but I think that theory explains a lot. And I just hope to god he comes to grips with whatever demons he needs to and approaches the rest of his presidency with a different style. I do, an optimist at heart, keep alive a small glimmer of hope that he is playing some long game the rest of us do not yet see but it is just that, a glimmer.