If Peggy Noonan is correct, and the president’s performance in the first debate revealed him to be “[p]etulant, put upon, above it all, full of himself,” then the two weeks since have shown him to own what they call in the world of boxing, “a glass jaw.”
A glass jaw is the inability of a fighter to take a direct hit, one on the chin, a roundhouse. Once hit, a glass jaw boxer goes down and usually doesn’t get back up. If he does manage to get on his feet, he staggers around, lost and confused. for the rest of the fight as his opponent pummels him.
“Staggering around” is the best way to describe the president’s actions since the first debate in Denver. Mitt Romney has grown larger, more confident, full of energy and optimism, and not just about his campaign and the election, but for the country.
Barack Obama has grown increasingly gloomy, incoherent and strident, careening from Big Bird to binders to bayonets.
In a panic over falling poll numbers, the president and his ace team of consultants in Chicago rushed out a brand new glossy pamphlet of 20 pages, full of pictures of the president with children, and called it a program for the next few years.
Pundits mocked the transparent ploy and the president grew angrier still. Never --never-- has an incumbent tried to win a second term by glowering at the electorate, but Barack Obama is trying.
The rebuke that is headed his way will come from many directions, but most significantly, polls of the military are showing a huge advantage among those on active duty for Mitt Romney.
Some of that lead might be because of the massive defense cuts the president has already imposed. Some of it might be as a result of Obama’s abandoning Iraq without a new “status of forces agreement” in place. Some of it might be the relentless claims of credit for killing bin Laden when everyone in the military (and millions and millions of civilians) know who did the dangerous part.
Among the worst moments of the campaign was the president’s dismissiveness of the role of the fleet when Mitt Romney spoke of the need for more ships in the last of the three debate meetings. Shocked sailors and their families heard the president make light of the mission of the Navy, noting that we have aircraft carriers and nuclear subs enough, and asserting that building the fleet beyond what it currently was --283 ships, far below the minimum 313 the Pentagon has said we need-- was akin to buying bayonets.
There are tens of thousands of sailors afloat, far from home in uncomfortable and often dangerous circumstances, who are not serving on carriers or nuclear submarines, but who are projecting the force that defends the United States.
Their pay is low and the jobs hard, and the president is threatening now even their medical care, but they serve on.
The fleet as a whole needs quick action or it will fall to an even smaller size, a provocative weakening in the face of the PRC’s naval build-up adn a diminishment of the country’s capacity to meet all of the many demands of global leadership it carries. The Navy is the backbone of American power, and the president is cavalier about it before the world. Incredible.
All of this and more --the fact that the SEALs got to bin Laden only because they had a huge and extremely competent fleet behind them extending their reach far forward of the bases from which they operate-- the president dismissed.
It was a shameful moment for the Commander-in-Chief, a low point made worse by the fact his Chicago gang thought it was a brilliant moment, didn’t even think how it would sound to the men and women the president leads, and not just in the Navy, but across the entire military.
Such were the actions of the concussed president, his glass jaw shattered and his campaign in ruins.
With ten days left in the campaign, a snarling, angry Obama can and probably will say anything. Mitt Romney will not go to that level and Mitt Romney won’t have to. Not only can winners be generous, Mitt Romney is the definition of large-hearted and generous, and the attacks will bounce off him.
But some of us would dearly love to hear one crowd somewhere chant “Glass. Jaw. O. Ba. Ma.”
For that is what the president has revealed, and the worst part is realizing that the country’s many enemies knew this about him long ago.