Simon Tisdall writes:
Candidates run on hope. Incumbents run on their record. But Barack Obama, lining up for a second term at the White House next year, has little to offer on either score. The heady optimism of 2008 has dissipated. At home, Obama is primarily associated with hard times: only 34% of voters approve of his handling of the economy, according to a recent poll. Abroad, his presidency has come to stand for impotence and incompetence. He promised new beginnings; what he has delivered, for the most part, is waffle, dither and drift.
If this verdict seems harsh, take a quick tour round the globe. Everywhere the pillars of American superpower are crumbling. The old habit of hegemony, formed in the postwar decades and confirmed in 1989 as Soviet power imploded, is fading as fast as a Honolulu sunset.
Part of the explanation is faltering industrial and financial clout, reflecting the rapid rise of rivals like China and India. But that is compounded by another central element: Obama’s persistent failure to stand up, in practical, substantive ways, for the values, beliefs and interests he so eloquently espouses.
Obama’s early, anguished indecision over keeping his promise to close Guantánamo Bay now looks like a grim portent. So, too, does his administration’s failure to support the Iranian students whose “green revolution” was so cruelly suppressed in Tehran in 2009. When the Arab spring took hold this year, the man who in Cairo had preached the pre-eminence of the democratic ideal took fright. Tunisia did not matter much. But when he faced accusations of becoming the president who “lost” Egypt, Obama’s dither default setting was triggered anew.