Dowd in today’s The New York Times
The leader who was once a luminescent, inspirational force is now just a guy in a really bad spot.
His Republican rivals for 2012 have gone to town on the Labor Day weekend news of zero job growth, using the same line of attack Hillary used in 2008: Enough with the big speeches! What about some action?
Polls show that most Americans still like and trust the president; but they may no longer have faith that he's a smarty-pants who can fix the economy.
Just as Obama miscalculated in 2009 when Democrats had total control of Congress, holding out hope that G.O.P. lawmakers would come around on health care after all but three senators had refused to vote for the stimulus bill; just as he misread John Boehner this summer, clinging like a scorned lover to a dream that the speaker would drop his demanding new inamorata, the Tea Party, to strike a "grand" budget bargain, so the president once more set a trap for himself and gave Boehner the opportunity to dis him on the timing of his jobs speech this week.
Obama's re-election chances depend on painting the Republicans as disrespectful. So why would the White House act disrespectful by scheduling a speech to a joint session of Congress at the exact time when the Republicans already had a debate planned?
And why is the White House so cocky about Obama as a TV draw against quick-draw Rick Perry? As James Carville acerbically noted, given a choice between watching an Obama speech and a G.O.P. debate, "I'd watch the debate, and I'm not even a Republican."
The White House caved, of course, and moved to Thursday, because there's nothing the Republicans say that he won't eagerly meet halfway.
No. 2 on David Letterman's Top Ten List of the president's plans for Labor Day: "Pretty much whatever the Republicans tell him he can do."
On MSNBC, the anchors were wistfully listening to old F.D.R. speeches, wishing that this president had some of that fight. But Obama can't turn into F.D.R. for the campaign because he aspires to the class that F.D.R. was a traitor to; and he can't turn into Harry Truman because he lacks the common touch. He has an acquired elitism.
Read the whole thing here.