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November 23, 2013

Obama: A President in retreat

The health care website is a bomb. Immigration overhaul is looking more and more like a bust. The allies are aggrieved about surveillance issues. Israel feels betrayed on Iran. The first black president didn’t even bother to go to Gettysburg, where the 150th anniversary of the most important 270-word speech ever given — the 270 words that welded the nation forever to the all-men-are-created-equal doctrine of the Declaration of Independence — would have given him a respite, and maybe a reset.

What’s up with Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States?

Often a president at around this stage of his second term is beset with scandal, but that’s not really the case with Obama; even the Benghazi imbroglio may be fading following disclosures suggesting the case against the administration may be a lot less potent than earlier believed. No one seems to be supping at the public trough, or having a headline-ringing affair.

Yet, this administration seems to be drowning. And while the speech at Gettysburg that the president didn’t make may be a sin of omission — involving words he didn’t speak — the Obama presidency seems to be floundering in sins of commission involving its own flood of words.

The words, for example, that said Americans could keep the health care plans they had. The words that asserted the president didn’t know his world-leader colleagues were being bugged. The words that argued Israel had little to fear with negotiations with Iran.

But it’s not only the words. It’s the impression that Russia played the peacemaker in the Middle East, a role we’re not accustomed to seeing, and the impression that France is the hard-liner in the conversations with Iran, unusual given the way the words “France” and “appeasement” are ordinarily employed in any sentence that also includes the words “crisis” and “negotiations.”

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