President Obama is concerned these days with the "young invincibles," the 20-somethings he needs now to buy into his program, but who probably won't because they feel (you guessed it) invincible and think they will stay so for quite a long time.
But it takes one to know one, as the irony is Obama himself is, or once was, an ultra-invincible, unstoppable and doing what people said couldn't be done. Could he become world famous on the strength of one speech? Yes, he could. Could he beat Hillary Clinton, a president's wife and a feminist icon? Yes, he could. Could he then beat John McCain, iconic war hero? Yes, he could do that, too, with the help of a nicely-timed collapse of the fiscal system, just at the moment he started to flag.
“Yes We Can!" was his slogan (without mentioning what he was supposed to be doing), and he indeed was invincible, up to the morning of Oct. 1, when he met the first problem he ever confronted that he couldn’t ignore or evade. Since then, he’s been like a 20-year-old who ran off the road in his father’s convertible and now faces surgery, followed by months of intricate therapies, with no clue how to pay for it all.
"Yes, We Can!" Like a 20-year-old, he seems stunned to discover that he’s now in some trouble, as he always had cover before. In 2004, he faced strong opponents, until their divorce records turned up in the media. In 2008, the press said that talk about Reverend Jeremiah Wright might be racist. In 2012, it said the real Benghazi scandal was Mitt Romney’s reaction. In 2013, he faced disaster in Syria — until the Russians stepped in.
Of course, he assumed that the website would work, the lies be ignored and the complaints of the 5 percent be dismissed as whining, but this hasn’t happened. Like the 20-year-old, he thought that his body would be young forever. But the young and invincible become older and frailer, and his luck, like theirs, has run out.
And so for the first time, he knows what it's like to be normal and pay a real human price for his acts. His plunging poll numbers across the board are the equivalent of gray hair and bad knees in terms of mortality. He pulls out the old stops -- the blaming of others, the relentless campaigning to howling crowds, as if he hasn't stopped running for president -- but they have stopped working, and he often seems tired and down. As Yuval Levin suggests, he has shifted his goals from saving his cherished signature issue to being willing to gut it to preserve his own viability, giving up his great goal of transforming society in favor of short-term political gain:
"The administration is giving up on the long game of doing what it takes to get the system into place and then trusting that the public will come around and is adopting instead ... a political war of attrition. ... The administration is coming to the view that Obamacare as they have envisioned it is not really going to happen, that they don’t know quite what IS going to happen (and no one else does either) and that they need above all to keep their coalition together and keep the public from abandoning them so they can recoup when the dust clears."
And when the dust clears, then what will happen? Can he talk his way now out of all of his problems? It seems "no, he can't" anymore.Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."