Det utrolige skjer: folk savner George W. Bush. Bakgrunn: Barack Obamas noe lettvinte opptreden da han skulle kommentere at 12 amerikanske soldater var skutt og drept og over 30 såret. I slike stunder krever amerikanerne følelser. Obama virket helt upåvirket, han snakket lenge om konferansen han var på før han tok opp de dramatiske nyhetene. Men selv da var det uten engasjement.
Slikt liker ikke amerikanerne. De venter seg noe mer.
In a sign that the Obama honeymoon truly is over, I began to hear this week the first stirrings of a wistfulness about Mr Bush. «I never thought I’d hear myself say it,» one Democrat told me. «But Obama makes you feel that at least with Bush you knew where he was on something.»
More serious perhaps was Mr Obama’s strange disconnectedness over the Fort Hood massacre of 13 soldiers by an Army major and devout Muslim who opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had praised suicide bombing and shouted «Allahu Akbar» as he opened fire.
Maybe Mr Obama had been reading the American press, much of which somehow contrived to present the atrocity as a result of combat stress due to soldiers going on repeated war deployments (though Major Nadal Hasan had not been on any) and therefore, no doubt, Mr Bush’s fault.
When the television networks cut to the President, viewers listened to him spend more than two surreal minutes talking to a gathering of Native Americans about their «extraordinary» and «extremely productive» conference, pausing to give a cheery «shout out» to a man named Dr Joe Medicine Crow. Only then did he briefly and mechanically address what had happened in Texas.
On Friday, when most of the basic facts were available, Mr Obama tried again. It was scarcely any better. He began by offering «an update on the tragedy that took place» – as if it was an earthquake and not a terrorist attack from an enemy within – and ended with a promise for more «updates in the coming days and weeks».
Completely missing was the eloquence that Mr Obama employs when talking about himself. Absent too was any sense that the President empathised with the families and comrades of those murdered.
It was a reminder that for the past 16 years Americans have had two Presidents who would often extemporise and express emotion. President Bill Clinton could certainly «feel your pain» while Mr Bush sometimes struggled to hold back tears. Mr Obama is more like President George Bush Snr, who famously communicated his concern for people by blurting out: «Message – I care.»
Obama har brukt to måneder på å vurdere anmodningen om økte styrker til Afghanistan. Hans grundighet blir nå tatt for vankelmodighet og ubesluttsomhet. Det er alvorlig. Han har selv sagt at det er en nødvendig krig.
There are increasing signs that Mr Obama is deeply discomfited by the war that he had declared in his election campaign to be a «war of necessity». Amid grave concern at the Pentagon about the cost of delaying decision making so long, it emerged yesterday that Mr Obama had asked for a detailed province-by-province study of Afghanistan.
Senior military officers fear he is second-guessing and undermining Gen McChrystal, whom he has met only twice. The indications are that a decision on troop levels might not come until mid-November. In the two months that Mr Obama has «dithered» – a word that is increasingly used across the political spectrum – over the McChrystal request, 96 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan.
Perhaps the most dangerous sign for Mr Obama is that the media – whose adoring coverage helped propel him to victory – are growing tired of the Obama Superhero theme. It has been pointedly noted this week that he has played as much golf already as Mr Bush did in his eight years in the White House.
Details have emerged of big Democratic donors being richly rewarded with birthday trips to the Oval Office, golf outings and special White House briefings. These are long-established practices in Washington but Mr Obama solemnly promised to end them.
Barack Obama: so much for superhero
As the anniversary of his victory looms, the troubles are mounting for a president who promised so much. Toby Harnden reports.