He is being tested for sure, in what is unquestionably the worst point in his presidency.
Think about it: while it's never been easy for the guy (coming into office in the midst of a worldwide recession and a two-front war) most of his battles the past 16+ months have largely been political. The realities facing him now, including the worst environmental disaster in the nation's history and a percolating crisis in the Middle East, cannot be solved by the speeches, talking points and charisma that got him through Beltway crises like health care reform or the stimulus.
That's not to say there is an easy way out of this either. When we see one of those photo montages a few years from now showing the man age and gray, this will be one of the reasons why.A storyline is emerging and its not a favorable or inspiring one. Here's Maureen Dowd in the NYT:
Obama wanted to be a transformative president and now the presidency is transforming him.
Instead of buoyant, he seems put upon. Instead of the fairy dust of hopefulness, there’s the bitter draught of helplessness.
His battle against water is taking on Biblical — even Job-like — proportions.
. . . As The Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut wryly wrote in her pool report: “It has been years since President Obama attended a rally like the one that took place here Monday night: sparsely attended, thrown together at the last minute, involving people who were not expecting to be there. We’re partying like it’s Obama circa 2005.”
The oil won’t stop flowing, but the magic has.
The heavens must be angry at Barack Obama.
It had been probably the worst week of his presidency so far, his administration at the mercy of events: the failure to cap the oil spill in the gulf, the economic crisis in Europe, the new tensions with Iran and North Korea, the developing scandal over the White House's job offer to Joe Sestak and, finally, Israel's deadly interception of an aid mission to Gaza.
Which brings us back to the Pittsburgh trip, and a planned speech about the economy. He's been doing a number of them, largely in swing states like Pa, North Carolina and Ohio, so the event seems more political than presidential, which is probably why the White House didn't release details about the event (and scant ones at that) to the local media until late last night. And if it was all for a local bump, you can see by the P-G front page that he's not getting that either.
So the storyline continues, and it approaches farce -- Obama has always seemed oddly similar to Martin Sheen's President Jed Bartlet in "The West Wing" and today marks a plot twist that would probably get crumpled up and tossed from a Hollywood writing room. After the president meets the commanding general of the US forces in Iraq, then flies to Pittsburgh, he flies back to the White House tonight to host a televised concert with Paul McCartney and the Jonas Brothers.
You can't make that up.