A Labor Day of Frustration for Obama Supporters

The president's rocky summer of compromise has his backers worried

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Let's check in on those who generally support President Barack Obama, just to see how they're feeling this weekend.

It’s not only getting to the point where it’s getting hard to see him winning reelection. It’s getting to the point where it’s hard to imagine people taking him seriously for the remaining 14 months of his current term.


That was Michael Tomasky, writing in The Daily Beast about "a president adrift." The just-concluded week has thoroughly dismayed many who backed the president's agenda, and who he may need to entice to support his reelection campaign in 2012. The about-face on smog regulations that sets them back to pre-George W. Bush levels. The weird, embarrassing stare-down with Speaker of the House John Boehner on the scheduling of a jobs-related speech. Bleak statistic after bleak statistic about the nation's failure to generate job growth when it sorely needs it.

The president's erstwhile allies are united in bafflement.

"Obama campaigned big, but he's governing small," Larry Hanley, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, told the Associated Press, shortly before Obama and labor officials are scheduled to mark Labor Day with a joint rally. There's significant unrest among union heads, the AP said, with some "grousing that the president they worked so hard to elect has not focused enough on job creation and other bold plans to get their members back to work."

Maureen Dowd runs down the list of jokes at the exasperated president's expense (in a column titled "One and Done?"):

No. 2 on David Letterman’s Top Ten List of the president’s plans for Labor Day: “Pretty much whatever the Republicans tell him he can do.”
On MSNBC, the anchors were wistfully listening to old F.D.R. speeches, wishing that this president had some of that fight. But Obama can’t turn into F.D.R. for the campaign because he aspires to the class that F.D.R. was a traitor to; and he can’t turn into Harry Truman because he lacks the common touch. He has an acquired elitism.
MSNBC’s Matt Miller offered “a public service” to journalists talking about Obama — a list of synonyms for cave: “Buckle, fold, concede, bend, defer, submit, give in, knuckle under, kowtow, surrender, yield, comply, capitulate.”
And it wasn’t exactly Morning in America when Obama sent out a mass e-mail to supporters Wednesday under the heading “Frustrated.”
It unfortunately echoed a November 2010 parody in The Onion with the headline, “Frustrated Obama Sends Nation Rambling 75,000-Word E-Mail.” 

This seeming fecklessness is what is so worrisome to Tomasky and others, who would prefer, his breaches of party priority notwithstanding, that Obama win a second term. (Also worrisome: Semi-permanent 9 percent unemployment is no good as policy or politics.)

The impressive, efficient campaign seems to be foundering on the hard work of actually making an administration operate. "I keep thinking back lately to that candidate and team I watched in 2008," Tomasky writes.

The candidate really had his finger on something. The team almost never made a serious mistake. When a mistake did happen, they did a respectable job of digging their way out of it. They had some fight in them. Well, I’ve learned something new from these folks: Up until now, I’ve thought that running a strong presidential campaign is a sign that one can probably govern fairly well too. But there appears to be little correlation between the two.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.