Paul Greenberg

Standard and Poor's took notice of where all this was leading, and downgraded this country's credit rating accordingly. It was only acknowledging what most Americans have been feeling for some time: a lack of confidence, which is what credit, national or personal, really is.

There can be little doubt who had the worst week in Washington: The Hon. Barack Obama. He certainly didn't act the victor. There was no grand signing of the debt-ceiling compromise in the Oval Office with souvenir pens handed out all around. Only the White House photographer was allowed to snap a picture of the president signing the bill like a surrender. The press was kept out. There was no snapshot of a beaming president in the Rose Garden surrounded by proud sponsors of the deal -- maybe because no one was really proud of it.

Far from exulting, the president of the United States sulked. Instead of issuing a victory statement, he tried to shift the blame. "It shouldn't take a risk of default," he complained, "to get folks in this town to do their job." As if he himself wasn't the most prominent resident of This Town, and didn't have a job to do there. And wasn't doing it all too well at the moment.

The president's big gamble during the nigh-eternal negotiations over the debt ceiling was to appeal to the American people in a televised address to the nation. The nation yawned. Does anybody recall that speech a week later?

Remarkable: The president of the United States throws a mighty stone in the water and there's scarcely a ripple.

Adding chutzpah to failure, our current president could think of nothing better to recommend last week than to finally enact those free-trade treaties negotiated by his predecessor. Yes, the same treaties that have been piling up on his desk for years. He's been holding them hostage to the demands of his labor-union backers for still another government subsidy, still more spending.

Once again reality has obliged Barack Obama to adopt the policy of a president he once deigned to despise and now increasingly must imitate -- George W. Bush. Experience is a dear teacher, as old Ben Franklin noticed, but some will learn from no other.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.