WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has officially entered the twilight zone, searching in vain for a new focus in its remaining two and a half years.
President Obama has been trying to look busy in recent weeks, giving speeches to rally his dispirited party as he voices new fears that Democrats will not turn out to vote in the midterm congressional elections in November. Apparently, many of them won't.
"Our voters... get excited about general elections," he said at a recent Democratic fundraiser in Houston. "They don't get excited about midterm elections."
The Washington news media is worried about it, too. A story on the front page of the Washington Post on Sunday ran under the headline, "Democrats' biggest worry: Will their voters show up?" Apparently, many won't.
If rank-and-file Democrats do not increase their usually weak midterm election turnout, "Obama could spend the final years of his presidency battling not only a Republican House but also a Republican Senate," writes the Post's chief political reporter Dan Balz.
Actually, Obama's problems are even deeper than that. While he hasn't been able to get much of anything out of Capitol Hill since the GOP's 2010 takeover in the House, he has been utterly incapable of rallying his party, or the nation at large, behind any kind of galvanizing, second term agenda since his re-election.
So he busies himself with make-work tasks tailored to make himself look presidential, but with no real, sustained focus on the nation's unfinished business -- like the weak economy or persistently anemic job growth.
He held a defensive news conference last week to boast about the number of people signing up for Obamacare, a job that a busy president would have routinely handed off to his Cabinet secretary.
But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is suddenly leaving her post after presiding over Obamacare's bungled rollout and other troubles. Besides, Obama needed something to do that day.
So what's on his remaining agenda? And does he really have one beyond defending Obamacare which will be one of the central political issues in this fall's elections.
That politically embarrassing question was the target of a blistering criticism by the Post's editorial cartoonist Tom Toles on Tuesday. It showed Uncle Sam sitting on a couch next to a reporter in a "waiting room" with two calendars on the wall: One was labeled "Last Election" and the other "Next Election."
Uncle Sam, impatiently looking at his watch, tells the reporter, with his notebook in hand, "The awkward period when we don't know what to say or do is almost over."