President Obama said Monday that he would "rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president." He will be lucky if he's not an abject failure. There's usually a reason for a presidency lasting a single term, as Mr. Obama's slow-motion train wreck is demonstrating.
Mr. Obama took office with historically high approval ratings based on a combination of hope for his administration, reaction against President George W. Bush's second-term unpopularity and a degree of irrational exuberance, best illustrated by Newsweek editor Evan Thomas' cultish imageof Mr. Obama "standing above the country, above - above the world, he's sort of God." For his first 100 days, Mr. Obama's approval rating remained relatively high, and the percentage of Americans thinking the country was on the right track grew from about 10 percent the previous October to more than 40 percent.
By May 2009, Americans began to lose confidence in Mr. Obama, and the god began to bleed. The numbers saying the country was on the wrong track crept back upward. Mr. Obama' public approval rating began its great decline, the most rapid of any first-year president, according to Gallup. The decline has been broad and deep; Mr. Obama has lost support nearly uniformly from men and women across all age groups and all incomes.
The most striking slump occurred with the white middle class, which bears the brunt of Mr. Obama's wildly irresponsible fiscal policies. White approval dropped from 60 percent to 39 percent, and among middle-income Americans, support declined from 65 percent to 46 percent. Independent voter support declined from 66 percent to 45 percent. Among those who attend church weekly, approval dropped from 60 percent to 42 percent, and there was an almost identical decline among married couples and those older than 65. This explains why Mr. Obama is attempting to pander to the middle class, without whose support he cannot be re-elected.
It's not hard to understand Mr. Obama's historic descent. After 100 days, Americans took the measure of the man in office and found him wanting. They saw his inexperience, his penchant for liberal ideology over common sense and his unprecedented drive to expand government controls over every aspect of American life. He pressed for more taxes, more regulations, greater federal control over the economy and increased dependence on Washington. He rammed through a $787 billion stimulus bill that was an off-budget wish list of congressional pork. He ran up more debt in the first month of his first budget than the federal government accrued in all of 2007. He promised the stimulus bill would limit unemployment to 8 percent; unemployment is now in double digits.
Mr. Obama promised to renew America's relations with the world, but his reach has exceeded his grasp. His grand designs for peace in the Middle East and South Asia have collapsed. His outreach to the Muslim world has not stemmed the tide of terrorism. America's adversaries mock the president, and our friends watch the decline of U.S. power in wonder and disappointment.
Mr. Obama came to Washington promising a new tone, an end to bitter partisanship, a new openness and frankness with the American people. But transparency was obscured, partisan lines hardened, and the White House became an ivory tower of arrogance. As Mr. Obama steps to the podium to give his State of the Union address tonight after a year in office, the man who stood above the world has crashed back down to Earth.