I have previously noted the difference between power, authority and influence. After more than 4 1/2 years it is apparent that Pres. Obama retains all of his presidential authority, but possesses significantly diminished power and vanishingly little influence.
The President's deteriorating stature has not so much to do with dominating events or cruel fate as it does the inherent limitations of the man. These limitations were not so much revealed by this financial crisis or turmoil in the Middle East as they were ignored by a media and publicenamored with a vaporous abstraction. The fact that Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, yet produced no significant legal scholarship should have at least suggested caution in evaluating Obama as a man of substance. His habit of voting "present" when the public did not support his individual ideology, his vacillation regarding gay marriage, his pathological avoidance of responsibility for the scandals and corruption that pervades the administration, as well as the complementary usurping of credit for good fortune or the sacrifice of others all bespeak a defect, avoid of character hidden in an illusion.
It has become obvious that many of Obama's most desirable qualities are not personal characteristics that inhere in him, but are rather romantic yearnings that the public and media have projected onto him. His lack of influence is seen in the rebuff of his efforts to have Chicago host the Olympics, his absence of leadership in the various political upheavals in Iran, Libya, Egypt and Syria, his inability to advance a gun control agenda, and the disarray accompanying implementation of the Affordable Care Act. These deficiencies are all the more remarkable when one considers that the first two years of Obama's presidency included large majorities in both houses of Congress, and a historically compliant media.
There is no denying that the economy has underperformed, that race relations have endured several affronts to which he was a party, that American diplomacy has become more amateurish and ineffective, and that America has become a tepid ally and a timid adversary. Those who continue to defend him, complaining about what he "inherited," or the intransigence of political opposition, or the complexity of modern politics are simply in denial. His greatest "accomplishments" are both unpopular and unfinished; his failures cannot be undone by media spin, finger-pointing, or whining.
It would be tempting to attribute all of Obama's shortcomings to hubris, or lack of seriousness, or ideological blindness. The reality however is not so simple. Obama's strengths and virtues have always been an abstraction, a semi-conscious daydream in which imagined virtues were given parity with unforgiving reality. Obama actually believed that the thoughts in his Cairo speech were original and that peace in the Middle East eluded the world because he had not yet expressed those thoughts. He believed he could impose "fair" economic regulations without adversely affecting economic activity. He thought he could make the oceans recede. He thought he could reason with despots whose ambitions dismissed reason. He thought he could morally bully those who had no reason to recognize his moral authority.
The dissolution of Obama is not a tragedy nor a lamentable example of unfulfilled promise. It is simply the natural consequence of people looking at a man and seeing what they want to see, rather than what is actually there.