Polling still shows that many Americans like their new president. But polling also shows that the Democratic Congress, starting with an out-of-control House of Representatives, has managed in less than two weeks to create a scenario that could permanently cripple the Obama presidency. The mess of a so-called stimulus package it passed on to the Senate became toxic with critically important independent voters so quickly that now a rework in the Senate is unlikely to reverse the bill's unpopularity.
More distressing for President Obama is that expectations of an immediate boost from stimulus legislation, which he has been desperately trying to manage, remain. And that's regardless of how many times the president warns that recovery will not come soon. But with so many organizations, state governments, special interests and scared and financially ruined people expecting relief, Obama has been placed in a no-win situation.
In my book "Paranoid Nation," about the 2008 race for the presidency, I note many similarities between then-candidate Barack Obama and former president Jimmy Carter. And I certainly was not alone in drawing such comparisons. Carter, following the years of Richard Nixon's Watergate and Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon, was viewed as an agent of real change.
Like Obama, Carter's past political career seemed foreign to most of the media -- his southern-based political past looked small time and hard for the national media to grasp. Obama's meteoric rise from Chicago-style politics to a brief stint in the Senate left him an enigma to many as well.
While Carter chose to enter the White House with a clear effort to avoid the so-called "Washington Establishment," President Obama has embraced Washington insiders in an effort to avoid amateur mistakes.
But the amateur mistakes have come rolling one after another in the past weeks. And while a failure to properly vet big names for cabinet posts resulted in a confession from Obama that "I screwed up" -- his candor helps him in the polls -- the whole issue of flawed potential administration officials is merely a sideshow.
The fact is that Barack Obama, while trying to meet a dire economic crisis, has fallen straight into the trap that led Jimmy Carter to defeat in his bid for reelection. Obama has sought to promise and do too much in too short a period of time in a city where Congress, federal departments and agencies, and bureaucrats can and will eat a new president alive.