The U.S. faces formidable challenges: The national debt alone has risen to $16.7 trillion. Yet, instead of acting, President Obama escapes to irrelevant trifles.

On the evening after Barack Obama left for a trip to Mexico, comedian Jay Leno made fun of his otherwise cherished president in the opening of his “Tonight Show.” Traveling to Mexico to explain his immigration policy was as meaningful as flying to San Francisco to make the case for gay marriage.

Of the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants who currently live and work in the U.S., more than half are from Mexico. Obama would like to legalize them — on the one hand, to defuse a domestic problem, on the other hand, to normalize relations with Mexico. Although the more than 200-kilometer-long border between the U.S. and Mexico is partly fenced in and heavily guarded, every day hundreds, if not thousands, of Mexicans overcome all obstacles on the way into a seemingly better world in which cleaning women and dishwashers are still needed.

The government of the Mexican state Yucatan has even published a handbook that explains to Mexicans how they can best get along in the U.S. as “undocumented immigrants” — how to find a job, register their children in school and send money home, and what to do if they get sick and do not have health insurance.

Obama Leads from the Second Row

Many Americans don’t think it’s a good idea to legalize “illegals"; such a measure would not solve the problem, but instead encourage more migrants to try their luck on the other side of the border.

Jay Leno’s jokes about Obama’s trip to Mexico were of course harmless compared to the manner in which Jon Stewart, a seasoned Obama fan, really presented the president in his “Daily Show.” Before his first election in 2008, Obama declared, “I will close Guantanamo.” Two years later, as president, he announced, “We will close Guantanamo.” After his reelection, it only went as far as a subdued “I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo.” Stewart played Obama’s statements one after another and commented on them with few words and some deadly grimaces.

One day later, he upped the ante. This time it was about Syria and Obama’s threat to the regime in Damascus and how the U.S. would not accept the use of poisonous gas; Assad should beware of crossing this “red line.” The Syrian president had scarcely done what the American president had warned about when he qualified his own words: One would first need to examine closely when, where, by whom and to what degree gas had been used before one could react appropriately. Stewart commentated on this back-down with a verbal rampage, after which so little of Obama’s presidential authority remained intact that the audience only had a choice between “lame duck” and “paper tiger.”

Now comedians and satirists like Jay Leno and Jon Stewart don’t belong to the milieu of the Republicans — quite the opposite. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have already often been guests with Leno and Stewart and were treated accommodatingly by both. But the two show masters have a good feeling for atmospheric changes. The time of “Obamamania” is over. If the topic of conversation among urban, middle class liberals is the president, the best that is said about him is that “he leads from behind;” he leads from the second row. And if one asks them what the man in the White House has achieved in his term of office, the answer is very brief: “Obamacare,” a reform of health care.

From Visionary to Mediator

“Obamacare” will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, but is already causing confusion. The law encompasses 2,000 pages; the corresponding provisions for implementation fill more than 10,000 pages. At present, no one is able to say what effect the reform will have on the quality of health care. It is only certain that it will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Obama began as a visionary who wanted to do everything better: reconcile Americans with one another across all political and cultural rifts, close Guantanamo, end the conflict in the Middle East, bring peace to Iraq and Afghanistan, put Iran in its place. But at the beginning of his term of office, he developed a strange affinity for irrelevant trifles.

At the end of July, he invited a black Harvard professor and a white policeman to the garden of the White House for a “beer summit.” The white policeman had temporarily arrested the black professor as he attempted to break into his own house. What turned out to be a local misunderstanding escalated into a national incident after Obama took on the matter and stated at a press conference that the police had “acted stupidly.”

At the “beer summit” he played the part of the mediator. At the end of the 40-minute show in front of a hundred journalists he announced the result: “I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart.”

No Gift for Statesmanship

Just a short time ago, Obama highly praised a professional basketball player who came out and disclosed that he is gay. That was “the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are …”* Are these the problems the president of the U.S. needs to attend to personally, while the national debt during his term of office has risen from $11.9 to $16.7 billion and the number of Americans receiving food stamps has risen from 28 to 48 million?

One must give Obama credit for having taken over an already indebted country and having to wage two wars he didn’t start. But the manner in which he determines his priorities does not show any gift of statesmanship. In the first three months this year, the Obama family went on vacation three times. It costs the taxpayers an enormous amount when the Obamas stay with friends; the cost of security is tremendous and expensive. At the same time, the White House remains closed to visitors because savings must occur somewhere.

Barack Obama arrived under the motto “yes, we can!” It could well be that he will end his term of office in three years with this on his resume: “No, I couldn’t!”

*Translator’s Note: This quote was actually spoken by former President Bill Clinton.