“Beaten” and gloomy after the Republican drubbing Tuesday, Obama packs his bags and begins his “grand tour of Asia” (India, Indonesia, China, South Korea and Japan), which has been repeatedly delayed. The president took stock of things after the intimate psychoanalysis session Wednesday before the press and has decided to break out of the “shell” of the White House.
The polls say that his popularity abroad is considerably higher than it is in the U.S., although his first contact with the outside world for many months will serve to show the inevitable; the world is losing “faith” in his “transformative” power.
With the war in Afghanistan on fire, with Guantanamo prison still open and with the Middle East peace process stalled, the Muslim world's perception of Obama has fallen to a worrying low, especially in Pakistan, with the unique exception being Indonesia (his adopted land, where he will try to find inspiration these days).
Obama, who walked around the world like no other president during his first year, has made an act of contrition and decided to cloister himself in 2010. That's where it hurts ...
“There is an inherent danger in being in the White House and being in the bubble,” he admitted Wednesday in his confessions from the podium. His recent trips to the Gulf of Mexico and his desperate attempt to capture the "spirit" of the electoral campaign in the past two months did not serve to regain lost ground.
“Getting out of here is good for me, too,” he concluded. “I always come away from those interactions feeling so much more optimistic about this country.”
After two years, many Americans — including independents and moderates who voted for him — consider Obama to be an “elitist” and “distant” leader, uninvolved in the problems of ordinary people. The president reminded us Wednesday how he intends to resume a direct line to the average American by reading letters before going to bed. “Those letters that I read every night, some of them just break my heart. Some of them provide me encouragement and inspiration. But nobody is filming me reading those letters.”
Obama obviously has a “perception” problem, which was latent during the battle for health care reform and has been picked up on over the months. “What has happened to the great orator?” some ask. “What has happened to his skills as a communicator?”
“I think it’s important to point out as well that a couple of great communicators, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, were standing at this podium two years into their presidency getting very similar questions because the economy wasn’t working the way it needed to be [...]" Obama was comforted, thinking perhaps of a similar redemption by 2012.
But the scourge of the tea party has not only stirred the waters of the Republicans, who are already betting for the presidency. The progressive base, disenchanted with Obama for the “change” that has failed to materialize, is threatening to spur the president from the left to avoid a shift similar to that of Bill Clinton's in 1994.
Even now, 47 percent of Democrats think that Obama is not untouchable and that there should be other candidates in some hypothetical primaries. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is still playing the rebel, as if Tuesday's results were not in her favor.