Within and without, things are tough for the Obama administration.
Within, someone leaked to the iconic Bob Woodward the report from General Stanley McChrystal concerning Afghanistan security. As Politico notes, this reveals personal fissures within the administration, which are unsurprising, but accompanied by a sense that the President can be pressured into a course of action, which is troubling so early in his term.
Without, Obama's approval numbers at this point in his administration are tied for lowest in postwar history, with the iconic Bill Clinton and the iconic Ronald Reagan. Both, of course, staged impressive comebacks, though for Clinton the comeback came at the expense of his legislative agenda.
We think that the poll numbers and the leak both say what's wrong with Obama. Poll numbers indicate that essentially all of Obama's loss of approval has come from Republicans (who started at 41% approval and now at 18%) and independents (once 66% and now 46%). Democrat approval peaked at 92% and now stands at 86%.
The number of independents who are cooling show that the drop is not a function of pure partisanship. The issue is that Obama has catered to his base in nearly every initiative thus far. The hard left may decry his weak leadership toward their agenda on healthcare, but the rest of the political spectrum sees where he is and understands where he's headed. And they don't like it. They voted for moderate Barack.
Same goes for the leak. Obama was going to take care of business in Afghanistan. Now he's questioning the recommendations of the general he appointed to do the job. Caution is one thing, but when caution seems to align with the surrender wing of the Democratic Party, more and more revealed as what Obama regards as his true base, anyone who isn't part of that wig get antsy.
What drove Reagan's comeback from a miserable political position was economic recovery, driven by permanent tax cuts that gave businesses the assurance they needed to start investing and hiring. Obama has made extremely clear that such is not his agenda. The iconic Arthur Laffer notes that Reagan's successful employment of supply-side economics to fuel economic recovery is the extreme opposite of the Obama agenda, which are more congruent with policies that lengthened and deepened the Great Depression.
What drove Clinton's comeback was an economic recovery coupled with his abandonment of his party's left wing after his own healthcare debacle. From 1994, a chastened Clinton worked as much with as against a Republican Congress, adopting a moderate, pragmatic stance that won him reelection against a lackluster opponent in 1996. Obama at this stage seems unlikely to make such a move, even as the Rs seem unlikely to stage as dramatic a comeback in the off-year election as they did sixteen years before. Still, no one anticipated a Speaker Gingrich, let alone a Clinton-signed welfare reform bill.
In sum, the Presidential Patient is politically sick. But he may well stage a recovery, though not by continuing to do what he is doing presently.