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Why Won't Obama Step Up?

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Is this not the plea? Has this not been our innermost wail, our collective hew and cry when we watch Obama sort of meekly, sort of halfheartedly go at it lo these past mostly so-so, only occasionally encouraging, but oh my God they could be so much better past few months/four years? You bet it has.

Because oh, what fun it wasn't to watch in sort of jaw dropped disbelief as Obama let easy opportunity after easy opportunity whoosh on by like a sweet softball from heaven during that first debate, countless chances to unleash some devastating intellectual whoop-ass all over Mitt Romney's oily head and wooden heart, not to mention his endless falsehoods and pathetic open threat to giant talking birds who help children learn to read.

Theories abound as to Obama's reluctance, inability, outright blindness when it comes to seriously throwing down in F2F encounters. Maybe it's because he's an introvert. Maybe it's because he doesn't really enjoy that kind of gloves off, high-pressure combat (unless, apparently, he's playing basketball with the Secret Service). Maybe it's because he has no stomach for badass mud-slinging, and is far better suited to calmly thinking through his points before articulating a savage counter offensive that actually contains a semblance of truth.

Or maybe we should simply join with little Sasha Obama in wondering why the hell her dad was acting like such a pu--y on national TV, as notable satirical news outlet The Onion reported.

So we scream and throw things at the TV. We shake our heads and sigh in frustration. Knowing Obama is so much more intelligent, conscious, awake to the world than Romney makes the heart hurt, causes consternation and even mild panic. It seems so easy! It seems so obvious! Why doesn't he nail it? Why doesn't he jump down Mitt's lying throat with a wink, a dazzling statistic and a 20-megavolt cattle prod?

"Barack!" we want to wail. "Look! It's YouTube! It's Australia's fiery prime minister no one in America has ever really heard of, Julia Gillard, effortlessly kicking ass all over her sexist conservative counterpart! And it went viral in, like, 20 seconds flat! Mr. President! That's how you do it, OK? Look! Please?"

Alas, it might not help. No matter what you make of Obama's tepid performance, it reminds us of a tragic design flaw those of us on the left have been living with since the impossible glory highs of 2008: this has been, unfortunately, the Obama we've always had. Solid, impressive, coolly respectable, articulate to a fault, but not really up for a white-hot, blood-boiling beat-down right when he needs to bring it most.

After all, this is the guy we all thought would roar into office on a delirious wave of eloquent cool, shake the place to its core and remake the White House into some sort of awesome 18th-century European salon packed with radical ideas and inspiring redirections, and instead has basically replaced the stemware, brought in some live jazz and put a basketball court where Bush's inflatable kiddie pool used to be.

This is the guy who had an army of world-class photographers, biographers, journalists, historians and philosophers clamoring to record every gesture and detail of his historic march to the White House, only to sit on the sidelines this time around in sort of shrugging, bloom-is-off-the-rose resignation, an admission that it's really all just a wobbly, fairly thoughtful, sometimes impressive, often lopsided, hugely flawed sort of Kindle Fire of an administration, when we were all hoping for an iPad 3.

Do not misunderstand. I am no turncoat. I'm still a dedicated advocate. Obama has achieved remarkable accomplishments. He did nothing short of restore America's respectability across the globe, stabilize a free-fall economy, advance women's and gay rights, sort of reform health care, and push through a rather stunning list of progressive legislation. He's a masterful president in many ways and right now, with the notable exception of Hillary (or, for that matter, Bill), there's no one who could do it better.

Hence, we shall not dwell in pits of negativity for long: The guy is going to win another term. Romney's little post-debate poll bump has already faded and he's coasting on nothing but a whole bunch of not very smart people thinking for a few days that he might not be quite as inept, incompetent, and Bush 2.0 as they imagined, even though he is.

But there's a vital difference. The first election, Obama won on the sheer force of propulsive, electric momentum fueled by his intellect, charisma, how wonderfully not-Bush he was, all coupled to the wild-hewn fantasy that at least some of the radical changes he promised were going to come true. A few did.

This time, he's going to win on sheer gut instinct. Not his - ours. He's going to win because...

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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He's also a well-known E-RYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...

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