When John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crashed into Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, in July 1999 some observers said he had gotten himself into a "square box," meaning that he had run into the limits of his experience and his imagination.
Barack Obama is in a square box, and observers are now beginning to talk about his inevitable crash.
There was some question about JFK Jr.'s flying experience. There's no dispute about Barack Obama's executive experience: he has none. In fact, he is the least qualified person ever to be elected president.
Prior to being elected, he had done almost nothing. Certainly nothing requiring, or teaching, executive ability.
He served in some capacity as a "community organizer," which Sarah Palin might say is like running a Sunday-school picnic, but without the kids.
He worked as a civil-rights attorney, whatever that means. And he taught at a law school, which may be why he always sounds as if he's lecturing to twenty-somethings.
He served in the Illinois legislature for a few yeas, but spent most of his time voting "present." Then he served in the U.S. Senate, but for only two years.
Would the directors of any mid-sized company have asked him to be its CEO? He wouldn't even have qualified for -- in Ross Perot's memorable phrase -- middle management.
He is a man without significant executive experience in life.
He also seems to have little imagination. His supporters say he is tremendously brilliant. Maybe. But how do we know? Obama has never released his college or law-school grades, and, given the educational institutions he attended (Columbia College and Harvard Law School), we are entitled to assume he may have been an affirmative-action admittee. As he was to the White House.
Besides, the relationship between brains and imagination is not clear. Harvard brains are obviously not a necessary condition for a fertile imagination. President Reagan went to Eureka College. But he had the imagination -- the vision -- to reduce taxes and win the Cold War. He inspired America and was the most successful president of the 20th century. (Roosevelt only won a war. Reagan won a war and saved the economy.)
Certainly nothing Barack Obama has done since becoming president shows much imagination. He is a complete knee-jerk liberal. Not a single action he has taken makes you say, "Wow, that was clever."
His economic policy is straight from the FDR-progressive mold. And although, like Roosevelt's, it has failed miserably (skyrocketing deficits, persistent unemployment), he lacks the imagination to try something else. Even his speeches are turning into liabilities. Exhibit A (or are we up to Exhibit Q now?): his Oval Office speech on BP, which his friends panned.
His foreign policy is now a Washington joke. Rude to America's friends, obsequious to her enemies, he leaves people wondering what disaster will be next. He got off to an awful start by taking the wrong side in the Honduras crisis. The good guys threw out the bad guy, and Obama backed… the bad guy.
It has only gotten worse. Iran seems set to get the bomb. Israel is friendless in this administration, even when it seeks to keep the bad guys out of Gaza, Israel's Cuba. In Europe he is known as "Obama the Impotent." The president of France wonders out loud if he is "weak." Obama has even dissed our best allies, the British, repealing (to the extent one man can) the long-term "special relationship." And much, much more.
Some people are suggesting that if the Republicans win big in November, Obama may make a midterm course correction, as President Clinton did. But Clinton was a man of experience. (He was also a Rhodes Scholar.) Before he became president, he had been elected governor of Arkansas, defeated for reelection, then reelected two years later. He figured out what people wanted and gave it to them. He even realized that America wanted welfare reform, although he didn't.
Clinton, George Will said, was not our worst president; but he was the worst man ever to become president. Obama is not the worst man ever to become president. But he is certainly the most incompetent, as Americans, watching this weak community organizer flail impotently against the BP oil spill, are now coming to realize.
Obama's performance will not get better, because Obama lacks the experience and the imagination to make it better. His crash now seems inevitable.