Everyone knows Barack Obama is in a political fix. The coalition that elected him in 2008 has collapsed, and the independents whose support lifted him to the White House have now abandoned him. What to do?
Time magazine's Mark Halperin says Obama has to try all the expected things: “show people what he stands for, fight for what he believes, compromise with Republicans when it's sensible, reshape his circle of advisers and focus on job growth and deficit reduction.” But Halperin says succeeding in those efforts will be tough because “they run counter to Obama's instincts, the political realities of American politics for the last generation, or both.”
What Obama really needs, Halperin says, is a stroke of good luck. “Busy as he's been, he has not yet experienced a single major moment that has benefited him politically,” Halperin writes. Events like the Gulf oil spill have been harmful, rather than helpful. So what would brighten Obama's political prospects? Here's Halperin:
No one wants the country to suffer another catastrophe. But when a struggling Bill Clinton was faced with the Oklahoma City bombing and a floundering George W. Bush was confronted by 9/11, they found their voices and a route to political revival.
Of course, the Oklahoma City attack killed 168 people, and September 11 nearly 3,000. So Halperin quickly adds: “Perhaps Obama's crucible can be positive — the capture of Osama bin Laden, the fall of the Iranian regime, a dramatic technological innovation that revitalizes American manufacturing — something to reintroduce him to the American people and show the strengths he demonstrated as a presidential candidate.”
Maybe a bin Laden capture or Iranian revolution would help, although it seems highly unlikely that a dramatic technological innovation would revitalize American manufacturing in time for Obama to be re-elected in 2012. But the fact is, presidents have often shown their true mettle in the face of tragic circumstances. And Obama's partisans appear to be coming very close to hoping for a tragedy to revive the president's political fortunes.