There has been a growing narrative taking hold about Barack Obama’s presidency in recent weeks: that he is loved by many, but feared by none; that he is full of lofty vision, but is actually achieving nothing with his grandiloquence.
Chicago’s dismal showing yesterday, after Mr Obama’s personal, impassioned last-minute pitch, is a stunning humiliation for this President. It cannot be emphasised enough how this will feed the perception that on the world stage he looks good — but carries no heft.
It was only the Olympic Games, the White House will argue — not a high-stakes diplomatic gamble with North Korea. It is always worthwhile when Mr Obama sells America to the rest of the world, David Axelrod, his chief political adviser, said today. But that argument will fall on deaf ears in the US. Americans want their presidents to be winners.
Mr Obama was greeted — as usual — like a rock star by the IOC delegates in Copenhagen — then humiliated by them. Perception is reality. A narrow defeat for Chicago would have been acceptable — but the sheer scale of the defeat was a bombshell, and is a major blow for Mr Obama at a time when questions are being asked about his style of governance.
At home, it is difficult to turn on a television and not see Mr Obama giving a press conference, or an interview, or at a town hall rally, in his all-out effort to sell his troubled reform the US health insurance system. After three months of enormous exposure, Mr Obama has achieved this: the growing likelihood of ramming a Bill through Congress with — at most — just one Republican vote.
Abroad, Mr Obama promised in his Inauguration address to engage America’s enemies, and he has done just that. He has very little to show for it. Yes, Iran took part in bilateral talks with the US this week over its nuclear weapons programme — but that is something Tehran has wanted for years. There is still a very good chance that the meetings will prove to be an exercise in futility and a time-wasting ploy by Tehran.
Mr Obama also scrapped a plan for a missile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, hoping to get in return Russian co-operation behind new sanctions against Tehran. There was optimism when President Medvedev said “sanctions are seldom productive, but they are sometimes inevitable”. Yet Vladimir Putin, and the Chinese, remain fiercely opposed to sanctions.
Meanwhile, America and its allies are being forced to witness a very public agonising by Mr Obama and his advisers over his Afghan strategy — six months after he announced that strategy.
This has all added to the perception that Mr Obama’s soaring rhetoric — which captured the imagination during last year’s election — is simply not enough when it comes to confronting the myriad challenges of the presidency. His spectacular Olympic failure will only add to that. (SOURCE THE TIMES)