Every new president gets a "honeymoon" period when most Americans, even those who didn't support him, wish him well and hope for the best, almost always followed by a certain disillusionment as it becomes apparent that the problems facing the government — usually created by previous government actions — are beyond the capacity of one person to solve. The process has been especially dramatic for Barack Obama, in whom so many had invested so much hope that he would be dramatically different.
Now, just more than six months into his presidency, with Congress heading home (or on junkets) for a month, political reality has hit home.
The administration looked like a juggernaut getting a $787 billion "stimulus" spending bill through Congress rather quickly. President Obama moved with dispatch to announce an end to torture (or "enhanced interrogation") and his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Gradually, however, complications mounted. Closing Guantanamo is turning out to be far from easy and reports on implementation have been delayed.
On the domestic front House leaders ramrodded an ambitious and potentially expensive carbon cap-and-trade bill through, but blowback from constituents has been such that there are serious questions as to whether the Senate will even take it up.
The Obama administration learned from the failure of Hillarycare not to have reputed outside experts put together a complex health-care bill in secret, but then left the job to a fractious Congress. The result has been disjointed discussion.
The upshot is that opinion polls show that while President Obama's personal popularity is about where President Clinton's and President Bush's were at similar stages, approval ratings for key issues like handling the deficit, the economy and health care are significantly lower, in some instances dipping into the negative range.
The upside is that the emerging impression that President Obama is not all-powerful and omnicompetent is in some ways a validation of our constitutional system, which was purposely designed to make it difficult to make major changes without having a strong consensus from the people and from the three branches of government that ostensibly serve them.