Die-hard defenders of Barack Obama’s disintegrating presidency have shifted to a new story line: It’s not that the president is doing too little, it’s that we expect too much.
Under this evolving narrative, Americans have an unrealistic image of what a president can actually accomplish with the powers allotted the office by the Constitution. Blame it on West Wing, on the heroic tales we were fed in school, or on presidents who, on the campaign trail, promise to turn back rising tides and calm a growling world.
One writer recently called it the myth of the magical presidency, making the case that Americans don’t understand how effectively Congress and the Constitution can tie the executive’s hands. Obama himself has used the phrase “I’m not a dictator” a half-dozen times during his tenure to describe why he isn’t making progress on key initiatives.
His paralysis on a tumultuous world stage is being shape-shifted into a positive attribute — Obama is moving with caution, acting with prudence to avoid foreign entanglements that the hot-blooded George W. Bush rushed toward.