GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — As you enter this city of 58,566 two hours from the Colorado-Utah border, you can swear you almost see facial images in the red rock and gorges carved and gouged Mother Nature. This is Colorado, with hundreds of clay stone caves, where caving is popular.
Wait, that face on the stone near a cave. Isn't it Barack Obama's?
Whoever would have thought that Obama, who was widely perceived in 2008 as someone who could strengthen the country's center, could turn out to be someone who has seemingly weakened it.
In an era when both parties' political bases often reject compromise, Obama has given the great American tradition of honorable compromise a dirtier name.
Obama now has the image of someone with a political backbone as firm as mashed potatoes. Dramatically shifting gears has indeed happened before in politics, and Obama can aggressively go on the offensive going into 2012.
But today, there is a nearly universal perception that Obama has been in more caves than Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Ignore his words and lofty-sounding speeches. This guy can be rolled. That doesn't bode well, not just for his re-election, but for his second term if he is elected.
The 2011 incarnation of Obama doesn't resemble Colorado's Cutthroat Trout as much as its Yellow Perch. Unfair? It is a growing consensus among a wide variety of old media and new media pundits seemingly confirmed the recent controversy over Obama's dispute with House Speaker John Boehner.
It was over Obama's request to give a speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 7, and Boehner's insistence of the 8th. This ended in Obama agreeing to Boehner's date of Sept. 8.
"It shows they have no fear of the president. In fact, nobody right now, politically, has fear of this president –– at all," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough noted on his show. "And as Machiavelli said: ‘It's better to be feared than loved.'... It's almost as if the President of the United States [is] .... irrelevant to the political process in Washington. It's starting to seem a bit like March, April of 1995, when Bill Clinton had to go out to a press conference and remind Americans he was still relevant because the Constitution said he was relevant ..."
Comedy genius Mel Brooks, when asked Newsweek, said of Obama: "You got to be so damn tough to get what you want, and he's not that kind of guy." This was perhaps the first time Mel Brooks understated anything.
I bet the late Mahatma Gandhi is looking down on this, screaming: "For God's sake, Obama, start smacking some heads and kicking some political butt!"
Obama raised huge expectations and fears in 2008. Now his supporters are concluding they expected too much. His foes consider him a politically naive wimp and see blood in the water.
His defenders point out that Obama is constrained a strong Republican talk radio political culture, potent Republican Congressional power, plus a GOP that strategically thwarts all of his ideas or proposals.
Everyone knows Obama can deliver a great speech. His problem is follow-up: delivering on promises and effective policies — and battling to the mat for them.
Rather than being the new FDR, Obama could go down in history as the Democrat who presided over the New Deal's and Great Society's dismantling and who paved the way for a President Rick Perry to put the final nail in the coffin of Roe versus Wade.
And if Obama loses? He can always open a company here in Colorado — a caving tour company.
He certainly has the experience.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and mo. His column is distributed exclusively Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.