RICHMOND

Sometimes it's hard to even see President Barack Obama, because Republicans and liberal Democrats alike have piled on so hard that most of the time just a hand or foot makes it out of the maelstrom. Some of the hatred comes from those who just can't believe that a man who is half black and only half white can be president of the dis-United States of America. It never happened before and they don't want it to happen again.

The worst threat you can make to a Republican politician is that you are going to out him to the tea party people who somehow still control the policies of the party even though they have mistakenly been declared dead by liberal Democrats. Even speaker of the House John Boehner nervously surveys potential young Republicans who might be under the spell of Ayn Rand and tea party primitivism.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader in the Senate, has been much more outright on his party's policy. On Oct. 23, 2010, McConnell said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." That is why the country has been moving so slowly in wiping out the George Bush-Dick Cheney retrogressions in both moral and practical problems. Rather than seeking to get us on the right track on economic, moral and democratic problems, we have had a stuck-in-the-mud House whose major goal is to make life difficult for the president, both politically and socially, no matter what the cost in lives and rights. And basically they have succeeded.

Comedian Jay Leno also succeeded in summing up the situation succinctly when in one of his recent opening monologue "zingers," he said, "President Obama got some good news today. The IRS rules he can write off the second half of his term as a total loss."

n

To me, Obama's first mistake, one that bedeviled him from his first day in office and continues to plague him now, is that he started off by thinking he could charm the Republicans into compromising with him on key issues and they could then work together. Has ever a man so fooled himself, so dug himself so deep a hole, so given the wrong signal to so many people, as the present president of the United States? His campaign speeches were so brilliant that he had enough voters who thought he would come in swinging away like Papi Ortiz and turn dross into gold.

That has definitely not been the case. He did get the needed health bill passed even though recalcitrant states can tinker it to uselessness. Immigration revision is moving along until it reaches the House of Representatives and then who knows. So-called gun control is out of ammunition. The economy is once again alive but not that well. The president talks about dealing with the weather but until the East Coast washes away, nothing will be done.

But the president has mostly disappointed his enthusiasts by being namby-pamby when it comes to showdowns with the opposition. Instead of attacking with the full force of his office, he invites Republican leaders to dinner so they can chat politely about life and death problems. One of his stock rejoinders is to blame a "do-nothing Congress" for blocking his initiatives. And he has been holding up 136 draft rules that could at least put the country a little more in shape.

However, political guru Jonathan Alter summed up the situation accurately when he wrote that Obama was mostly trying to do the right thing even though his opponents just hunkered down on his proposals and refused to budge. One of Obama's major accomplishments has been to quietly replace so many young, fervid, incompetent ideologues with bright, professional people in key government offices.

Just think what it would have been like if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had won the election, Alter counsels. Many Republican top dogs had an interesting response to the green light for same-sex marriage. "Jesus weeps," they chorused. A Romney-Ryan administration would have pushed us way outside of that. They would have made Him bawl out loud.

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle contributor.