WASHINGTON -- The political health of President Obama and his party can be summed up in one sentence: His legislative agenda is in shreds, his economic policies have failed, and Democratic prospects in the midterm elections are bleak at best.
The political events of the past two weeks have sent Obama and his party a message that they refused to hear for a long time and that some in the liberal Democratic base still refuse to accept.
It was a message that President Clinton and his advisers understood from the beginning: "It's the economy, stupid!" Obama finally seems to be acknowledging that as the White House has belatedly begun talking up "jobs" in the midst of 17 percent unemployment.
But down deep, he still seems to believe that the problem isn't his frayed agenda but the political mishandling of it.
He sent that message loud and clear when he brought his campaign manager David Plouffe into his inner White House circle within hours after Republican Scott Brown stunned Democratic leaders by winning Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. Scott won on a platform of killing the president's healthcare plan, reducing taxes, cutting spending and making sure that terrorist prisoners never see the inside of a civilian courtroom.
But by that time, Obama's agenda was either dead, dying or in a coma. Obamacare as formulated is dead, and a scaled-back version is at best in a stalemate, unless Democrats shove it through the Senate under a shady procedure ironically called "reconciliation." Nor will the climate-change cap-and-trade tax ever see the light of day.
His so-called job-creating stimulus program is a colossal failure, with a recent CNN poll showing that three out of four Americans think most of the money has been wasted. Nearly two-thirds say the projects were chosen solely for political reasons and had no economic benefit at all.
It is clear he has no viable Plan B, beyond another "stimulus" bill that is waiting in the wings and that will in turn waste still more money.
Political gunslinger Plouffe, meanwhile, may be good at what he does -- playing politics with both guns blazing -- but Obama's problem isn't politics; it's policy. Americans do not like his proposals to put government in charge of their health care. They do not want to pay an energy tax every time they flip a light switch. And they do not think jobs can be created from Washington by spending nearly $1 trillion on pork-barrel projects for favored political interests.