WASHINGTON -- President Obama is facing a crisis of confidence in the way he is handling (or not handling) the Gulf oil disaster, record deficits and debt, and growing turmoil and doubt in the U.S. economy.
As the president approaches a game-changing midterm election when his congressional majority is expected to be cut down to size, his policies and leadership are being questioned on several fronts -- including a long-compliant national news media that has bent over backward to avoid blaming him for anything.
After five long weeks of indecision about what to do in the BP oil debacle that threatens Gulf coast economies, the national news finally began taking the administration to task for its failure to take command of a disaster that many now say is Obama's "Hurricane Katrina."
The major news media's do-not-blame-the-administration rule was broken in the Washington Post's lead, front-page story Tuesday that finally acknowledged that the White House "faced growing questions about whether it should be taking more control of the situation, rather than ceding so much of the decision-making about stopping the oil spill to the company that created it."
If anyone was under the delusion the president is in command of this catastrophe, the Post laid that to rest under a headline aimed at Obama's indecision: "Administration torn on getting tough with BP."
The White House doesn't have a clue about what they can do to help combat the millions of gallons of oil poisoning the Gulf waters and coastline, according to Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who unleashed a torrent of complaints Monday.
The Obama administration, a frustrated and angry Jindal said, "has been too slow in helping them hold back the oil," the Post reported. It has failed to provide the equipment the state desperately needed to combat the disaster, "including booms, skimmers, vacuums and barges" and has "stood in the way" of his plan to dredge and build artificial barrier islands to prevent the oil from reaching the coast.
What could the administration have done before the broken wellhead poured millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf? Named a high-level strike force of government and oil-drilling disaster experts, and other global oil company technicians who have dealt with similar spills, to work with BP to plug the well -- instead of relying on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, neither of whom has ever dealt with such problems before and were in over their heads from the beginning.
Meantime, Obama is experiencing another crisis in economic confidence on Wall Street and the larger investment community as stocks are in a nosedive amid growing fears of European debt and the uncertainty about how the sweeping financial regulatory bill and his health care plan will affect businesses and the U.S. economy.
Investors are seeking the safety of U.S. Treasury bills as capital investors remain on strike and fears mount over the rescue of the Bank of Spain and whether European debt troubles are widening as the euro continues to drop against the dollar.
The Senate-passed, 1,500-page financial regulatory bill pending in Congress is also roiling the stock markets as investors fear its impact on the banking system will stymie credit and short-circuit a modest recovery.
All of this, plus a jobless rate climbing toward 10 percent, plunged the Democratic Congress's approval numbers to new lows and drove Obama's approval-disapproval scores down to 48 percent and 45 percent respectively.
Gallup's daily measurement of how Americans see the economy showed the economic confidence level at a minus 30 percent this week.
The Rasmussen poll, widely considered the most accurate in the business, found that only 25 percent of the nation's voters "strongly approve of the way Obama is performing his role as president," while 43 percent strongly disapprove. Notably, just 49 percent of Democrats "strongly approve" of Obama's performance.
Clearly, the mood on Wall Street, the wider business community and the nation at large has turned increasingly bearish on Obama's presidency. It is being driven by fear that we are in for a long period of slow economic growth that will keep the unemployment rate in the 9 percent range for the rest of this year.
Obama is not seen as leading the country, only reacting. We see that in his handling of the Gulf oil spill and in his persistent habit of blaming the previous administration for $1.5 trillion budget deficits. And when he does react, it is timid and uncertain, as evidenced by his line-item veto proposal to cut wasteful budget earmarks that wouldn't produce a thimbleful of savings, and that Republicans ridicule as "a day late and a trillion dollars short."
Meantime, trillions of dollars in wasteful spending, along with the cataclysmic Gulf oil leak, all continue to gush, awaiting someone who can effectively clean up the mess.