The stock market plunges, a monstrous oil spill threatens coastlines, terrorism comes to Times Square, even the Grand Ole Opry is underwater, but the man in the White House is not pushing any panic buttons.
“Obama,” David Brooks opines, “is handling his role, which ranges from the marginal to the significant, in these events with calm professionalism. He’s active yet not annoying. He’s not taking credit for everything. He’s not creating friction by making any missteps. He is calm, cool and collected.”
In the face of such competence, along with signs that the economy is slowly improving, why is the President’s approval rating still falling along with public trust in Congress, corporations, banks and other American institutions?
Republican obstructionism and Tea Party temper tantrums are not enough to explain a dark national mood that shows no signs of lightening. Even some bipartisan cooperation on reining in Wall Street seems to be making no difference.
We may be in Great Depression territory here, when FDR was the object of unremitting hatred by a segment of the population even as he was elected four times while leading the country out of economic chaos and winning a World War.
A friend who grew up in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl back then had one plausible explanation. “When you pride yourself on being independent,” he recalled, “it’s hard to forgive someone whose existence reminds you that there was a time when you would have gone under without outside help.”