There's a lot in it, actually, but here's the point that really gets to me:
Such a pity. Such a real pity.
These two presidencies [Bush and Obama] really do illustrate all too nicely the pathos that is twenty-first century America. Consider their respective situations, and what each did with those circumstances. Bush came into office after marketing himself as a moderate, after one of the most contentious election meltdowns in American history, with a Congress almost exactly evenly divided (and the Senate soon to fall into the hands of the Democrats), with no particular crisis going on short of a mild recession, and with really no mandate of any sort, apart from hopefully not acting as ill-suited and unprepared for the job as he seemed to be during the campaign (no worries there, though - Cheney and Rumsfeld and Powell would be keeping him on the right path - remember?). So what does he do under these circumstances? He adopts a radical regressive agenda. He polarizes the country. He lets loose a marketing campaign of epic intensity, he hammers Congress, he aggrandizes to himself probably more unilateral power than any president in history. And he gets virtually everything he wants. If you can hold your nose long enough to get past the results of his policies, it's quite an amazing story of boldness and presidential success, made all the more remarkable because of how astonishingly bad his ideas were for the country, and how transparent that fact was even at the time. This guy was selling melted poisonous ice-cubes to Eskimos in wintertime, and he not only made the sale, he got them to want the purchase.
Obama, on the other hand, is dealt almost the opposite hand when he comes to office. He is elected in a clear and compelling victory. He gets a Congress with his party controlling both houses by lopsided 60-40 margins. He receives a clear mandate for change, and he is backed by a stunning outpouring of goodwill, both at home and abroad. He's got crises that everyone agrees need some serious tending to. In short, you could hardly come up with a better set of circumstances for presidential success if you sat down and created them yourself. So what does he do with this gift? Again, the opposite of Bush. He demands nothing. He fights for nothing. He negotiates with everyone, including those who have zero intention of voting for a bill that he is nevertheless allowing them to dilute, and those (generally the same folks) explicitly trying to ruin his presidency.
* David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University.