Dreams of 2008 Obama's Lost Magic

Two years on from his historic election victory, US President Barack Obama is trying to recover his lost magic as defeat for the Democrats looms in the midterm elections. But he is no longer the man he used to be, and his window of opportunity has passed.



He wants everything to be as it was before. He wants it to be as innocent and passionate, as honest and boundless. He wants it to be as full of promises and the conviction that everything is possible in the Land of Opportunity. Because, as he told his supporters back then, "We are the ones we've been waiting for." It was a rallying cry so powerful and romantic it sounded like a line from a good song.

Today, Barack Obama is the first black president of the United States. Back then, in 2008, he was probably the best election campaigner of all time. And now he is on the campaign trail again. This fall he is speaking in Philadelphia, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, spreading the message that "they" (the Republicans and their donors) want to rob "us" (open-minded, young Americans) of our future.

At the Crossroads

It is like a grown-up going back to the places of his youth: the public swimming pool where he learned to swim, the intersection where he had his first kiss. It's a sentimental journey, and at the same time an admission that youth doesn't last forever.

There are crossroads in every life, decisive moments. Afterwards, what was reality until a moment ago is just a memory, and the present has changed. The politician who once embodied a brave new alternative with his iconic slogan "Yes, we can" would probably love to be able to freeze frame the moment of his triumph as it was and hang on to the ease of those early, naive years. But that's not possible. Political careers, like biographies, succeed or fail -- but they do not stop.

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Photo Gallery: Moving to the Right
President Obama, who has been in office for 21 months, has gone gray during his time in the White House. He has become even thinner and wirier than he already was. He is campaigning this October because he has to. He is campaigning on behalf of those Democratic candidates who still stand a chance in the midterm elections on Nov. 2. If Obama is to have any chance of passing legislation in the next two years, his fellow Democrats must defend their majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. In the last two weeks before the elections, Obama must reverse all the trends and bad poll ratings. To do that, he needs to create the illusion that it is indeed possible to reclaim your youth and your dreams, and that mistakes can be corrected -- even the one big mistake that changed everything.

Disappointment with Obama

Barack Obama is not a bad president. He is eloquent, sharp-witted, and has certainly not lost any of his talent since moving into the Oval Office. Members of his staff say he still listens to what people say. A senator who once lost an election to Obama says the president demands dissenting opinions and that he's reliable, funny and works best under pressure.

Nor is he a weak president. He has begun withdrawing American troops from Iraq. He has been able to strengthen his alliances. And he has tackled the global economic crisis with an $800 billion stimulus package and a reform of the financial markets. His education policies target performance and aim to improve the disastrously under-resourced public school system. Millions of Americans have been dreaming of healthcare reform for decades. Bill Clinton failed to get it passed. Barack Obama succeeded.

Why then does it appear as if the American people would prefer to bring about a political stalemate between the White House and the two chambers of Congress, and thus ensure their own ungovernability, rather than giving the president a little more time? Why is the United States again leaning toward the kind of Republicans who have little to offer but tax cuts and who left Obama with a legacy of two wars and an economic crisis?

Because Barack Obama is not as good as he wanted to be.

Sometimes We Can

"Yes, we can," was boundless and absolute, a moment of political ecstasy. It was a movement, and a young one to boot. Since then, a qualifier has emerged: sometimes. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can't. That's political reality. That's the grown-up Obama, with all his shortcomings and weaknesses.

And there have been many weaknesses. Obama allowed Congress to negotiate the details of his healthcare reform while he deliberately held back. What emerged was a half-hearted reform that is complicated and that is really a reform of the health insurance system. But to get that reform, Obama used up his political capital, the one window of opportunity every new president gets.

Weren't there more urgent issues he could have tackled, like energy reform for example, which would have entailed a real change of direction and which would have meant re-educating America's consumers? Or what about the labor market? Obama admits he underestimated the problem of unemployment, which stubbornly hovers above 9 percent. He also concedes that he set himself up to be portrayed as yet another Democratic big spender who happily doles out tax dollars.

During the presidential election campaign, he masterfully controlled his public image. In office, however, he has been sending out some rather strange signals. As the BP oil spill was polluting the Gulf of Mexico, his wife and younger daughter flew to Spain, while the president himself played basketball with his chums. It gave the impression that Obama was part of a carefree, macho group that amused itself while the country suffered.


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lakechamplainer 10/19/2010
1. Many Inaccuracies in Story
I don't know whether the story was written to tell people in Europe what they want to hear or the writer doesn't understand America. For one thing, although it is not central to the article, I wouldn't say Obama "was the best campaigner ever". He was elected because most people felt a change had to be made, and McCain was in no way capable of creating change. Also, I don't know what it means to say Americans have to be "educated" about things like climate change and saving energy. Maybe, as I believe, they believe things like "Cap and Trade" are just back-door tax increases that serve no discernible purpose. Further, on the one hand, the article states the President has accomplished health care reform, and then later, correctly, states that it really was not reform, what was passed was just passed so that it could be said something was passed. If I could ask the President one question it would be: Why is Timothy Geithner still Treasury Secretary? Actually, a better question would be, why was he kept in office at all?
JerseyMike 10/19/2010
2. There was never any magic
Obama never had any magic. He is more akin to the Wizard of Oz sitting behind a curtain and giving the impression of magic. He is articulate and bright. However, that is where it ends. He never held an executive position before being elected president. He has never ran a business. He was never a governor of a state or even the mayor of a small city. He was only elected to the US Senate about 6 months before he started running for president. In short, he had no accomplishments. (By the way - can anyone tell my why he won the Nobel Peace Prize?) He was a cartoon of his own making - he was a hero although he had never done anything heroic. The US wanted change from George W. Bush. So, we elected Barack H. Obama - not because Mr. Obama demonstrated any aptitude for the job - but rather because he was different from what we had. We are now paying the price for our collective bad choice. Mr. Obama is in way over his head and appears inept. He seems tone deaf to the electorate - or worse - an ideologue who does not share the values of many Americans. We are in the worst recession in nearly a century. Yet, he pushes his leftist agenda even when it clearly causes worse unemployment among the very people who voted him into office. He chastises and threatens businesses - when he should be building them up. He seems bent on imposing the largest tax increase in US History - even though such a tax increase has to further worsen unemployment. We wasted over a year on health care legislation which to this day no one knows a thing about - except for a price tag of $1 trillion. This will clearly require large new taxes and further weaken the private sector. We need a more business friendly administration. We need a smaller, cheaper government. That is why Mr. Obama's party will take a drubbing in the midterm elections.
joeusa 10/19/2010
3. Why Obama lost magic
America is undergoing a very peaceful revolution. The Tea party movement is very peaceful. There has been no violence related to the Tea party. American revolutions are conducted in the voting booth, not with protests and burnings on the streets like in Paris or Greece. The first black president was not forced upon the America--the American public chose to vote for Obama. That fact shows the tolerance of most Americans. American voters certainly do not hate him, and they are not afraid of him. They want Obama out of power because he has doubled the American debt, devalued the US dollar, and there are no more jobs now than when Obama started his spending spree. A trillion dollars went to labor unions and corporate welfare and other special interest groups, and middle class Americans “the Tea Party” want Obamas spending spree to stop. And on November 2, election day, Obamas wild spending will stop.
chilihead98 10/19/2010
4. The author does not understand US politics
The author does not understand the composition of the US electorate. The US is a center-right country...on balance, we are conservative. Obama is a far-left president....he had the most liberal voting record of all US senators...except for those many time he simply voted "present". He is far out of sync with the American people and incapable of governing. He has no experience running anything. He has been raised and mentored by radical promoters of black liberation theology (Google: Rev. Jeremiah Wright) and violent leftist anarchists (Google: William Ayers) Obama rules in an autocratic manner and is not concerned about achieving bipartisan consensus on anything. The behemoth healthcare bill was passed without most congressmen having read it. House speaker Nancy Pelosi had the temerity to say we needed to pass the bill so that we could then know what's in it. Not a single Republican congressman or senator supported the bill which would commit the US to trillions of dollars of expenditure and transform perhaps one sixth of our economy. This type of "governing" is pure tyranny. Obama is now going to pay a heavy price for not just ignoring, but trampling over the will of the people. The coming historic defeat of the Democratic party at the polls is entirely the fault of Obama himself and the far-left Democratic controlled congress. The Democrats running for re-election are all trying to distance themselves from Obama. The explanation for all this is a tad more complex than Obama simply "losing his magic". The emperor has been discovered to be wearing no clothes. The world is now paying the price for decades of socialist rule and spending beyond their means.
Naturhuf 10/19/2010
5. Walk the Talk!
They call this lots of talk but no action........oh wait, there IS action, but mostly for special interest groups! He's no different than most pliticians who are corrupted by big business, regardless of political affiliation. This is what needs to change....I know it will, just not sure when. Perhaps we need a few more, even severe desasters, whatever shape or form, for someone to finally get the wake up call!
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