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Decline and Fall

The arc of the Obama presidency bends towards failure.

Aug 29, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 46 • By PETER WEHNER
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On the night of his election, Obama said, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” In practice, the president libels and routinely misrepresents the views of those with whom he disagrees. On his Midwest bus tour last week—when he wasn’t blaming his economic troubles on the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, ATM machines, and a “run of bad luck”—the president repeatedly accused Republicans of refusing “to put the country ahead of party” because they would “rather see their opponents lose than see America win.”

This is merely a preview of coming attractions. In anticipation that Mitt Romney might be the eventual GOP nominee, Politico reported that “Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background.” 

“Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,” a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House is quoted as saying. So much for “changing the tone.”

As a result of this approach, Washington is characterized by unusual acrimony and distrust. The Republican nominee should therefore hammer the president’s public character based on his political conduct. His election was hardly the triumph of hope, comity, and cooperation. 

The overarching story for Obama’s opponent, though, should be that the president is the architect of American decline, which in turn has left the public deeply uneasy and dejected. According to the Democratic pollster Mark Penn, “The country is going through one of its longest sustained periods of unhappiness and pessimism ever.” Almost 4 in 10 Americans believe we’re in a state of permanent decline. Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the country fell to 11 percent last week.

The parallels between Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter are hauntingly familiar. And if the eventual Republican nominee employs the right strategy against President Obama, America’s 44th president will suffer the same fate as America’s 39th president.

Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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