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“The West Wing is really lacking the kind of canny, seasoned Washington pros who can anticipate things, like the Hill reaction to gas prices, and deal with it before the president ends up on the defensive, like we saw last week,” said another veteran West Wing reporter. “They really keep getting caught flatfooted, and it’s so much rookie stuff. You’d expect them to be more nimble and anticipatory three years in.

“It’s such a Catch-22 for them, too - you see Plouffe keeping Obama on message with the jobs stuff, which they really have to do after being so all over the place the first two years with bailouts, health care and stimulus [spending]. But this new discipline also creates the impression that Obama is out of touch — or ineffective — on issues like Libya, Japan and gas prices. Then into the mix you throw a new press secretary, who is very smart but obviously struggling. The effect close up is disjointed, at times chaotic - and also strangely airless.”

The airless bubble. Macbeth had it bad: “Double, double toil and trouble;/Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”

But Mr. Obama may have it worse: He’s got bubble trouble. And that’s doubly troubling. Especially with no air.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at