10/30/2014 12:52 pm ET Updated Oct 30, 2014

What's Gone Wrong for/with Barack Obama?


The mid-term election is still days away, but it sure isn't looking good fro President Barack Obama and Democrats. With his job approval rating down precipitously since his strong 2012 re-election performance, Democrats are on the ropes and on the run. On the run from Obama, that is, as they try to minimize potential further losses in the House of Representatives and give the lie to widespread forecasts that Republicans will take the U.S. Senate.

Indeed, the White House is reportedly looking at how the Obama administration might work with some new Senate Republicans from non-red states.

While there some bright spots here and there -- such as Governor Jerry Brown's Zen-inflected drive for a record fourth term in California -- it could be a distressing night across much of the nation for the party of Jefferson and Jackson, Roosevelt and Kennedy.

So it's not too soon to be thinking about what the heck brought the leader of the Democratic Party to this pass in less than two years. Here are some popular possibilities.

** The economic recovery still hasn't kicked in for most.

True, the Great Depression were we hurtling towards under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney was averted. But most haven't really recovered from the Great Recession. And those who have benefited are more apt to vote Republican anyway.

** This is the Unexplained Presidency.

Obama, a wonderful writer and powerful speaker, just hasn't done much to explain the complex situations he is navigating through. In the absence of his narrative, other narratives impinge.

** There's been little action on immigration reform.

Despite plenty of promises, Obama simply hasn't delivered fro the Latino community, a critical lynchpin of his new 21st century-style electoral coalition. Low turnout is a huge problem.

** The Fear Factor in the media generally and around Obama in particular is in full fever.

Issues frequently get dumbed down and hyped in this media culture. This is a real problem for Obama, a politician of nuance who doesn't have a strong explanatory capability and, let's not forget, was viewed, quite ironically, as a "Manchurian Candidate" by vast numbers who don't get that movie, not just when he was elected but even today.

We're seeing it all come together with the media and political hysteria around Ebola, the (naturally) African disease which the military rejected as a potential bioweapon. Why? Because it's relatively hard to catch and burns itself out. By the time the reality proves far short of the hype, the election will be over.

** He's too insular.

A common criticism of Ovama, who's been getting caught leaning the wrong way on some big geopolitical issues. He's been getting a lot of unclever counsel.

You can pick one of two corollaries on this one: He's too anti-establishment. Or he's too establishment-oriented. (For the latter, see Panetta, L., who's been busily selling his book during the height of campaign season bashing Obama. What a guy.)

** He's too dovish. Or too hawkish.

The amazing reversal in popular perception of Obama's geopolitical leadership since his re-election gets him from both ides of the not especially clever binary debate.

On the one hand, he's too dovish, having failed finally to jump into the Syrian civil war, to insist on U.S. troops staying in Iraq, to militarily confront Russia over the Ukraine crisis, to attack Isis earlier, to praise rather than criticize the ultra-hawkish Israeli government ...

On the other hand, he's too hawkish, for escalating in Afghanistan, for not forcing Israel to allow the Palestinian state, for establishing a global surveillance state, for expanding drone warfare, for intervening in Libya, for failing to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay ...

Poor guy. All that would almost be enough to make one take up golf. And I hate golf.

Kidding aside, it looks like there will be important questions to answer.

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