For two more years, two very long and, I'm afraid, discombobulating years, the United States is to be served by a president with the emotional maturity of -- shall we guess? A 12-year-old determined to be noticed by everyone in the room? Maybe.
Barack Obama doesn't care that his political party lost the election. He doesn't care that his signature achievement -- Obamacare -- earns a disapproval rating of 56 percent in the latest Gallup Poll. He's going to overhaul immigration policy by presidential decree while pushing his own ideas on climate change, in conjunction with the Chinese. He won't commit to the Keystone pipeline.
What are we going to do? Impeach him? Send him to bed without his supper? One can't think of an approach likely to influence the conduct of the most self-fixated chief executive, I imagine, in American history. Obama hears nothing he chooses not to hear, believes nothing corrosive to his self-image of brainy dexterity.
The best we can do, maybe, is ignore him. Don't laugh -- it may happen.
The "most powerful man in the world," as journalists like to call America's maximum leader -- whether he actually leads -- is a figure hard to ignore: all the harder when he sets out to govern by edict and sheer cussedness. Note this, nonetheless: The political system already is looking past him, wondering who will take over the job in 2017. Hillary? Jeb Bush? Do I hear Mitt Romney?
Nearly all the air has leaked from the Obama enterprise -- the calculation that an unknown Illinois senator would bury the partisan hostilities of the previous two decades and do wondrous, formerly unimaginable things for America.
Ain't gonna happen. Wasn't ever likely to, for all the tall tales the candidate told about himself and his aspirations. The Obama presidency, with two years still to run, has the look of a spent force. No one can dare to say it's over, but it surely looks that way.
Picking up the pieces from varied international bunglings and from scorn for sound, job-creating economics won't make 2017-21 a walk in the park; but, then, that merely strengthens the case for ignoring the policies and ideas that were Obama's calling cards.
See any likelihood that government-controlled health care will be a rallying point for Democratic presidential candidates? The larger reality is that these same Democrats, seeking to avoid extinction, will have to promise at least minimal attention to the job of fixing ObamaCare's failings.
Obama's pleas to keep his political baby out of the hands of Child Protective Services won't wash in most settings. Democratic senatorial candidates during the last political cycle scampered away from a president the public had come to distrust -- as the polls regularly indicated. Lacking a Democratic majority in either house of Congress, what can Obama do for political redemption? Wave his scepter like Nero and bid the nation listen to him? It appears he means to try, as with immigration reform. Trying nevertheless isn't the same as succeeding. Our president, for all his power, looks more like an irrelevance than ever before.
Such condition can't be healthy for a country menaced by foreign enemies and punching below its weight, economically speaking. Great dangers arise in the kind of political vacuum over which our president presides; that is, if you call it presiding.
There is opportunity in the moment, even so -- opportunity that comes with the overdue chance to quit putting one Barack H. Obama and his rhetoric at the center of American plans and dreams and calculations, and to start figuring out what policies can be made actually to work.
The opportunity holds more promise yet -- that of figuring out which presidential candidates, Democratic or Republican, seem likeliest to make the tiller of state stop spinning.
Onward to January. That's when the process really gets going. That's when the tiny if powerful -- just ask him -- figure of an immature and petulant president, occupying temporarily the chair of Washington, Lincoln and Reagan, begins shrinking to its proper size.