By Richard Reeves
There was a cigarette commercial in the early 1960s that went, "I’m smoking more and enjoying it less." The president at the time, John F. Kennedy, going through a rough patch, was asked how he felt about one negative story after another in the nation’s press. "Well," he said, "I’m reading more and enjoying it less."
I imagine President Obama is feeling about the same these days as he heads for Hawaii and a 17-day holiday vacation. In fact, a Hawaiian journalist named Chad Blair offered an islander’s perspective on that, writing on Politico.com:
"You want to know why Barack Obama is spending his sixth Christmas in a row in Hawaii? Because we’re boring. Sure, there are lots of exciting things to do here: surf, sail and hike trails, paraglide and parachute, jump in a shark cage and stare into an active volcano. ...
"But No Drama Obama wants things as predictable and peaceful as can be. ... No wacky dictators with chemical weapons. No wacky Republicans trying to kill Obamacare. No wacky Obamacare website seeming to kill itself. Instead, the Obamas sequester themselves in Kailua, the quiet windward Oahu town where they rent a house each holiday season. He golfs. He works up a sweat at the gym. He eats a fancy meal or two. He barbecues with the same three friends he’s known for decades. ...
"It’s been a tough year for Hawaii’s native son. His popularity is at the lowest point yet. His signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, is in trouble. He can’t get immigration reform and gun control passed. And it seems everyone except Dick Cheney is mad the government got caught spying big time."
A tough year, indeed. Rabid conservatives and Republicans, not always the same thing these days, are waving "aloha" by saying that the fifth year of Obama’s presidency has been a disaster and things will get worse in 2014.
Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post wrote: "The story of the year is a nation waking up to just how radical Obamacare is—which is why it required such outright deception to get it passed in the first place ... a fraud from the very beginning. The law was designed to throw people off their private plans and into government-run exchanges where they would be made to overpay—forced to purchase government-mandated services they don’t need."
Commentary, a magazine that sometimes seems to argue that what the American people need is more war, used an exchange between Piers Morgan of CNN and Barbara Walters of ABC to argue that Obama is the god who failed. Said Walters: "He made so many promises. We thought that he was going to be—I shouldn’t say this at Christmastime, but—the next messiah. And the whole Obamacare, or whatever you want to call it, the Affordable Health Act, it just hasn’t worked for him and he’s stumbled around on it, and people feel very disappointed because they expected more."
Maybe they did, but it is ludicrous to think Americans don’t need national health care. Ask a man who has struggled with family health problems for more than a decade. Me!
Back to the politics of the thing. Politico Magazine asked nine historians which president has had the worst fifth year in office. Only one said Obama. The others listed included Richard Nixon, James Madison, Ulysses S. Grant, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan and, believe or not, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Jean Edward Smith, a real historical talent, said: "FDR thought the Depression was over and cut the federal budget drastically. That precipitated the economic downturn in 1938 and 1939. If war had not come, FDR would have been a two-term president. And he would have been ranked good, not great."
We shall see about Obama, perhaps no messiah, but a good president who may have a chance to be a great president, depending on the events that control his sixth, seventh and eighth years. Issues come and go, rise and fall. A couple of months ago, Republicans thought the biggest issue the nation faced was Benghazi. Now it’s Obamacare and electronic spying. But all of that could be, probably will be, overwhelmed by new and unanticipated events in the next three years.
© 2013 UNIVERSAL UCLICK
White House/Pete Souza