First of all, he's a rock star.
Just listen to him sing.
A few bars of Al Green's “Let's Stay Together” became an instant ringtone on thousands of cell phones. No one-trick pony, a few weeks later Obama sang a sort of call-and-response with both Mick Jagger and bluesman Buddy Guy at a White House celebration of the blues.
Compare that to Mitt Romney's stilted effort to lead a sing-along with Florida retirees through “America the Beautiful.” It was painful, especially when it became clear he intended to slog through that third verse no one knows.
More self-assured than cocky—Obama saunters rather than struts—all you had to do was watch him sink a three-pointer on a dare sometime back, or listen to his speech before the United Auto Workers last month to realize the extent of his charisma.
The speech was a stem-winder. And I quote: "You want to talk about values? Hard work, that's a value. Looking out for one another, that's a value. The idea that we're all in it together and I am my brother's and sister's keeper, that's a value.”
His steady sailing in preventing another Great Depression, in the wake of the disastrous Bush administration, is beginning to be appreciated. In early March, he smartly touted his success in saving the American auto industry, along with the UAW and other unions. The industry is reporting record profits. Most concerns bailed out by joint efforts of Bush and Obama are flourishing. His economic stimulus package created new jobs, and many federal loans have been repaid.
Like many another, I have criticisms, but you can't argue that Obama has not been successful on some level. Nearly all economic indicators are positive. Employment, the stock market, Gross Domestic Product. Can you imagine where we'd be had Obama not acted stubbornly and persistently?
Along a broad front, his record is getting harder for most to criticize. He killed Osama bin Laden, an act I denounced for reasons I'll revisit one day, but such bold acts play well to the gallery. He used Navy Seals to rescue kidnapped Americans. He led from behind in liberating Libya from Gaddafi. He's bringing an end to two wars, allegedly. He mostly put an end to torture, at least for the time being. He shored up his environmental wing by putting a hold on the proposed Canadian pipeline.
And the benefits of his health-care plan—long disparaged as “ObamaCare”—are beginning to be felt. I have a grown son who still has healthcare, thanks to Obama, and millions more cannot be turned down because of pre-existing conditions. Even if the Supremes strike it down, the term ObamaCare will resonate nicely to many with ears to hear.
The third point is character. Obama's reputation is nearly spotless in areas that seem to matter most at election time. There's been no hint of marital infidelity or financial wrong-doing, beyond suggestions that he got a sweetheart deal on his home in Chicago. But that's a little like the Whitewater episode with the Clintons—a rumor mill in search of a crime to crunch that just isn't there. America has a crush on the First Family. Michelle is one of the most popular women in the country. Their daughters are storybook sweet.
Fourth, Obama is a master of strategy who takes the long view. Whether the subject is war, the economy or political discourse, he errs on the side of dignity and long-term gains. He brought former adversary Hillary Clinton into his administration. He threw John McCain a party. He invited other opponents to the White House even as they announced their main goal was to make him a one-term president and proved it by sandbagging every idea he floated.
Like many another, I was frustrated by Obama's early unwillingness to play hardball. That approach served him well, however, as his opponents gnashed their teeth and flailed around stirring rumors that Obama was a Muslim, not an American, that his father was a Kenyan witch-doctor, and so on. So that when Obama finally took off the gloves, to some extent, no one could blame him. He had given harmony and civil discourse a chance, so who could fault him when he made political appointments during a congressional recess, for instance?
Fifth, Obama's a wily infighter. He fights back against the most damaging charges—that he's to blame for high gas prices, for instance.
Finally, he's been blessed by his opponents. I mean, really, could there be a more embarrassing lot? Stay tuned.