If the United States had a parliamentary government instead of a democracy, President Barack Obama might already have one foot out of office. The horrible circumstances that sent the financial markets into turmoil and the events that preceded the Wall Street chaos might force parliament to a call for a "no confidence" vote. Such a measure demonstrates to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer trusts his leadership.
The disastrous debt ceiling compromise, S&P's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and the subsequent stock market collapse all send the same signal to President Barack Obama. The time has come for Obama to evaluate where he's been and where he wants to go in the months that remain until November 2012.
For Obama, last week's events are the second shot across the bow. The 2010 mid-term elections were the first.
Obama's choice is between stubbornly staying his course, blaming Congressional Republicans, Europe and George W. Bush, or admitting his errors and misjudgments, and showing tangible evidence of righting his wrongs.
So far, Obama has opted for the first option — deflecting responsibility. But he can't escape the facts. Obama is the worst jobs president since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, the U.S. unemployment rate is twice Mexico's and his popularity has gone straight downhill since its temporary bump after Osama bin Laden's murder.
Any serious evaluation of Obama's 2012 prospects should include these four factors: First, Obama won't have eight Bush years to rail against; second, his Republican opposition won't be as inept as John McCain; third, the media cannot possibly be as adoring of him as it was in 2008; and fourth, the romantic aura that surrounded Obama's campaign has already vanished.
In summary, while Obama can count on his ultra-liberal Democratic base, he'll need to recapture Democratic and Republican moderates who in 2008 turned out for him in huge numbers. Without them and registered Independents, Obama won't win.
Obama needs to act immediately to prove he's serious about pulling America out of its tail spin. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's recently formed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, assigned the task of cutting $1.5 trillion from the budget within 10 years, may be successful. But to many, it smacks of more of the same Capitol Hill doubletalk.
Under these crisis conditions, asking the nation to put its trust in Congress is a bit too much. As Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe said this week: "I'm embarrassed by all of us. I've never seen a worse Congress in my political life."
One thing that Obama can't escape is the nation's relentlessly high unemployment rate. Americans, both employed and unemployed, simply don't believe that Obama knows what to do. Obama doesn't have even a smattering of private sector experience. Rather, Obama's resume is exclusively in the academic and public sector as a student, professor and senator. How can a leader who has never held a real job can create them?
Given Obama's background, it's hard to argue with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's conclusion that when it comes to tackling the country's economic problems, the president is "in over his head."
Two suggestions from this corner, one tangible, the other symbolic: First, cut the outrageous multibillion-dollar military budget, which is more than the rest of the world combined, and second, prosecute the criminal investment bankers who helped send us down this road. Where there's a will, there's a way.
In the meantime, with its attention on Obama, America is undergoing a confidence crisis.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Currently, he lives in Pittsburgh, Pa. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.