The reports are not good, disturbing even. I have heard basically the same story four times in the last 10 days, and the people doing the talking are in New York and Washington and are spread across the political spectrum.
The gist is this: President Obama has become a lone wolf, a stranger to his own government. He talks mostly, and sometimes only, to friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett and to David Axelrod, his political strategist.
Everybody else, including members of his Cabinet, have little face time with him except for brief meetings that serve as photo ops. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner both have complained, according to people who have talked to them, that they are shut out of important decisions.
The president’s workdays are said to end early, often at 4 p.m. He usually has dinner in the family residence with his wife and daughters, then retreats to a private office. One person said he takes a stack of briefing books. Others aren’t sure what he does.
If the reports are accurate, and I believe they are, they paint a picture of an isolated man trapped in a collapsing presidency. While there is no indication Obama is walking the halls of the White House late at night, talking to the portraits of former presidents, as Richard Nixon did during Watergate, the reports help explain his odd public remarks.
Obama conceded in one television interview recently that Americans are not “better off than they were four years ago” and said in another that the nation had “gotten a little soft.” Both smacked of a man who feels discouraged and alienated and sparked comparisons to Jimmy Carter, never a good sign.
Blaming the country is political heresy, of course, yet Obama is running out of scapegoats. His allies rarely make affirmative arguments on his behalf anymore, limiting themselves to making excuses for his failure. He and they attack Republicans, George W. Bush, European leaders and Chinese currency manipulation -- and that was just last week.
The blame game isn’t much of a defense for Solyndra and “Fast and Furious,” the emerging twin scandals that paint a picture of incompetence at best.
Obama himself is spending his public time pushing a $450 billion “jobs” bill -- really another stimulus in disguise -- that even Senate Democrats won’t support. He grimly flogged it repeatedly at his Thursday press conference, even though snowballs in hell have a better chance of survival.
If he cracked a single smile at the hour-plus event, I missed it. He seems happy only on the campaign trail, where the adoration of the crowd lifts his spirits.
When it comes to getting America back on track to economic growth, he is running on vapors. Yet he shows no inclination to adopt any ideas other than his own Big Government grab. His itch for higher taxes verges on a fetish.
Harvey Golub, former chairman of American Express, called the “jobs” bill an incoherent mess. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, he said that among other flaws, the bill includes an unheard of retroactive tax hike on the holders of municipal bonds.
“Many of us have suspected that economic illiterates were setting the economic policy of this administration,” Golub wrote, adding that the bill “reveals a depth of cluelessness that boggles the mind.”
The public increasingly shares the sentiment. A new Quinnipiac polls finds that 55 percent now disapprove of Obama’s job performance, with only 41 percent approving. A mere 29 percent say the economy will improve if the president gets four more years.
The election, unfortunately, is nearly 13 months away.
The way Obama’s behaving, by then we’ll all be talking to portraits of past presidents, asking why this one turned out to be such a flop.