Steve Chapman

Not long ago, Barack Obama was pilloried for being too activist, too meddlesome and too inclined to see himself as the messiah. He was forcing health care reform down our throats, running General Motors, wrecking the financial system and promising to make the oceans recede.

But that was a different guy, from a parallel universe. The President Obama we all know is a passive, detached do-nothing. Or so we have been hearing since the British Petroleum oil spill gained our attention.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who once denounced Democrats for scheming to "increase dependence on government," now demands that Washington do more for his state.

Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently called on Congress to zero out the Environmental Protection Agency, challenges the administration to "save the Louisiana coast, save the fisheries, save the wetlands."

Funny how nobody said that at the 2008 Republican national convention, where the chant was "drill, baby, drill." Back then, real men didn't protect sea turtles.

Rush Limbaugh

"For 35 days, he hasn't used the full force of our government," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., complained of the president last month. That's right: a conservative lamenting that Obama is being too cautious and prudent in his deployment of federal power.

What's next? Griping that he's not enough of a socialist?

It may not be a surprise to find Republicans damning Obama when he does and when he doesn't. But it is novel for them to act as though the president is an omnipotent national father, without whose tender care we are all lost.

"America wants a leader, not a politician," proclaims former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, writing in USA Today. He says Obama should emulate former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who after the 9/11 attacks "camped out at Ground Zero" to lead the response. "There is no substitute for being there," Romney lectures the president.

This is part of Romney's ongoing campaign to make sure no one ever again takes him seriously. Obama is not a mayor. He is commander in chief at a time when we are fighting two major wars, confronting a North Korea that recently sunk a South Korean naval vessel, trying to prevent Iran from getting nukes and grappling with an international crisis involving Israel.

He is also responsible for directing policy and making budget decisions involving numerous federal departments and agencies that exist because the GOP, after all, didn't abolish them during its time in power.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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