National Review’s Lowry reflects on the president’s approach to his record

Rich Lowry of National Review shares with TIME readers this week his assessment of the Obama re-election team’s approach to the president’s record in office.

He’s gone from vaporous uplift in 2008 to dreary minutiae in 2012. Listening to him on the stump, you would have no idea that the economy is sunk in a subpar recovery and the nation’s balance sheet is deep in the red, let alone that the welfare state is in crisis throughout the Western world. The President’s approach amounts to fiddling while Athens burns, or at least defaults.

There is no signature proposal for his second term, no discernible agenda. It’s all day-to-day political jabbing and microinitiatives, often with specific constituencies in mind. He is running Bill Clinton’s relentlessly small-ball 1996 re-election campaign, except without the centrism or the peace and prosperity.

The state of the country denies him the incumbent’s preferred tack of running on a successful record. Top Obama adviser David Axelrod gave this away on a Sunday show recently when he said the President had to be re-elected because we couldn’t afford to stay on our current course. Did Axelrod miss the past 3 years, when his boss occupied the most powerful office in the land? “Change you can believe in” isn’t a recyclable theme. Once, the wag said, is enough. Twice is once too much.

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