2. His credibility has been hurt by misleading responses to a spate of second-term controversies. Well before the VA scandal, a growing number of Americans questioned Obama's trustworthiness. More often than not, Obama hurt his credibility in foolishly small ways, such as on Friday when he claimed that scheduling problems were "not something we were aware of" until recently. But as McClatchy reported, "More than a decade's worth of reports from the VA's own inspector general and the Government Accountability Office identified the issue repeatedly in dozens of audits, as well as in testimony before Congress."
3. He is reluctant to hold anybody truly accountable, especially himself. Like Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki lingered on the job long after his ineffectiveness was exposed. The White House defense is that the president won't be forced by braying pundits to scapegoat a Cabinet secretary and leave the agency without leadership. That may be an admirable sentiment, but it defies reality. First, if an Average Joe was in charge of a project that failed as miserably as the Obamacare website or the VA appointment system, Average Joe would be fired. Second, nobody is indispensable. Just ask Joe. In the space of two sentences on Friday, Obama both feigned and ducked responsibility for the VA fiasco. "In terms of responsibility, as I've said before, this is my administration; I always take responsibility for whatever happens, and this is an area that I have a particular concern with. This predates my presidency."
4. He seems, at times, bored with the job. A Politico analysis of the president's mindset is filled with revealing nuggets, including this one about a dinner in Rome with a famous architect.
It was such an escape for Obama that the next morning he joked to aides that he was not so pleased to wake up to the reality of more mundane matters. The aides were briefing him for a "60 Minutes'' interview about Ukraine and health care. One aide paraphrased Obama's response: "Just last night I was talking about life and art, big interesting things, and now we're back to the minuscule things on politics.''
Presidential confidant and friend Valerie Jarrett has said of Obama: "He knows exactly how smart he is.... He's been bored to death his whole life. He's just too talented to do what ordinary people do."
5. He puts politics above policy. These two "Ps" are justifiably entwined in any presidency, but Obama needs to be careful not to assume that executive action gives him the flexibility to tilt the balance. For instance, White House advisers tell me that a major part of their rollout strategy is aimed at minority voters, specifically blacks and Hispanics who tend to live in neighborhoods dotted by power plants. These voters, according to Democratic polling, are motivated by the climate change when the issue is framed as a matter of public health. On Saturday, the president traveled to the Children's National Medical Center to visit children with asthma aggravated by air pollution. Speaking of November's congressional elections, a senior Democratic official briefed by the White House said, "It's a base play." (According to the New York Times, "While studies show climate change may exacerbate respiratory diseases, that is hardly the most significant impact of global warming.") Among the talking points given to Democratic surrogates last week: Data on the relatively high concentration of power plants in minority neighborhoods.