Here's a theory about why President Obama is having a tough political time right now: He doesn't seem all that happy being president.Obama is psychologically fragile, and thus self-medicates a lot with cigarettes, golf, and exercise.
I know, it's the world's hardest job, and between war and the world economy collapsing, he didn't have the first year he might have wished for. And, yes, he's damned either way: With thousands of Americans risking their lives overseas and millions losing their jobs at home, we'd slam him if he acted carefree.
Still, I think Americans want a president who seems, despite everything, to relish the challenge. They don't want to have to feel grateful to him for taking on the burden.
I started thinking about this a few weeks ago when Obama confidant David Axelrod, noting that the president always makes time for his daughters' recitals and soccer games, told the New York Times, "I think that's part of how he sustains himself through all this."
Really? Is the presidency something to sustain yourself through? ...
Less lugubriousness wouldn't necessarily buy him a health-care bill. But in the long run, Americans might find it easier to root for or with Obama if he'd show us, despite everything, that he's happy we hired him.
He has gone through depressive periods in his mood cycle before, such as in New York in the early 1980s (when his sister worried about him winding up a homeless lunatic) and in Chicago in 2000 after his rejection by black voters.
The flip side of his mood swings is that when he's not feeling blue, he has feelings of grandiosity, such as running for the U.S. Senate or running for the White House.
How'd that work out for him?
So, Obama's rivals should not assume that just because he's down now, that he'll stay down. He could come back very strong.
My pet theory of history is that the big names in the history books are largely the guys whose Up periods happened to coincide with big opportunities in their lives and whose Down periods came at harmless points.