WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama returns from his August vacation with a growing pile of problems facing him on just about every front. The economy is in a nosedive, his party is on the brink of losing its majority and the country is losing faith in his ability to lead.
To a large extent, it could be said that it wasn't just Obama who was on vacation, it was his presidency. Here's what has been happening while he's been away:
1) FAILING ECONOMY: The weak Obama economy continues to unravel at an ever-faster pace, raising fears of another recession. Failure marks every economic problem he said he could solve: The housing industry is in a collapse, foreclosures are rising, jobless claims are mushrooming and the recovery -- such as it was -- appears to be vanishing.
The "evidence mounts that the economic recovery is coming unglued," writes economics reporter Neil Irwin in the lead story of Thursday's Washington Post. New home sales have hit an all-time low, durable goods orders are "a bare fraction" of expectations, the economy growth was growing more slowly in this second quarter than previously forecast. Top economists say the worst is yet to come.
The Congressional Budget Office is now forecasting a mediocre 2 percent economic growth rate in 2011, meaning that future job growth will be in very short supply.
2) LOSING CONGRESS: Polling data and other reports from key midterm-election battleground states in the past week suggest that Obama's party could lose its majority in November.
More than 70 House seats, most held by Democrats, are now in play, and Republicans need only 40 to take control. And The New York Times reported for the first time Thursday that "The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate," according to a new analysis of the most competitive Senate races.
With polls showing much more enthusiasm and energy among GOP-inclined voters than among the Democrats, the majority party is now in danger of losing more than 10 Senate seats, enough to topple them from power.
3) CLIMBING DEFICITS: CBO reported last week that the Obama administration will run a $1.3 trillion budget deficit this fiscal year, after last year's $1.4 trillion deficit -- continuing the tsunami of red ink that has pushed the national debt to nearly $13.4 trillion.
The spectacle of the federal government running unprecedented deficits, while runaway spending continues to spiral at an alarming rate, threatens our nation's future solvency, weakens our economy and undermines our national security.
4) LOSING IRAQ: No sooner did U.S. combat forces leave Iraq last week, than a rash of deadly bombings by al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists killed or wounded several hundred Iraqis.
Obama argued during his 2008 presidential campaign that Bush's war in Iraq was a mistake because al-Qaida terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center in New York were in Afghanistan, not Iraq. In fact, al-Qaida is coordinating and stepping up the bombings in an aggressive move to topple the government in Iraq.
5) GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT FAILURES: First came the West Virginia mine disaster that left 29 miners dead and revelations of lax regulation by the government that could have prevented it. Then the deadly Gulf oil-rig explosion and the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history that revealed a regulatory bureaucracy asleep at the switch, and an impotent White House that did not seem to know how to deal with the BP catastrophe from the very beginning. That was followed by the widespread egg salmonella outbreak that showed woefully inadequate agriculture inspections. This is the government that we want running our health care? As we near the midway point in Obama's term, he has lost the nation's trust and confidence in his presidency.
The White House doesn't seem to have a clue about what to do about an economy that is veering into another dangerous downturn. Obama clings stubbornly to his failed $800 billion spending stimulus and plans to inflict the largest tax increase in American history on a struggling economy, despite pleas from government analysts that this is only going to inflict more harm on the private business sector.
"Under current law, both the waning of (Obama's) fiscal stimulus and the scheduled increases in taxes will temporarily subtract from (economic) growth, especially in 2011," CBO warned Congress and the White House. What we have here, of course, is a failure of leadership that is the result of breathtaking inexperience and an ideology that believes in enlarging the federal government at the expense of the business community, job-creating investment by the private sector, and the economy. He has no one with any business experience in his team of top White House advisers.
He returns to Washington at a time when Americans are deeply pessimistic about the country's future -- with his job approval polls at a low 43 percent (50 percent disapprove) -- and without any clear sign that he knows how to deal with the issues that he was elected to fix.