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O’Connor: Is Obama a half-term president or a political genius?

I may lose my day job.

I may be audited by the IRS.

I may even be in grave danger of ridicule.

But fearless, I proceed.

Mr. President, “You better watch out.”

Santa Claus isn’t coming to town. The Grinch, Scrooge, and numerous bill collectors are already here-knocking on doors — looking for you, and the Democrats.

You need help. Better advice. And a new direction.

So, in my own, “audacity of hope,” I am giving you a Christmas present. It is a big box, with several items inside. The first item, is a dose of bare-knuckle truth.

A dose of bare-knuckle truth

You are in danger of becoming a “half-term President.”

The Republicans, with a clear message of “No,” are gaining ground.

Sarah Palin is within one point of your approval rating; Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are within spitting distance of your job, and the GOP is leading in the Congressional generic ballot box question.

Let me put this in sports terms. Specifically, boxing. Several rounds into your presidency, your legs are starting to wobble.

You prefer fancy footwork, dancing around the ring, and playing to a crowd that enjoys spectacles. That worked well during the campaign, but gets you nowhere while governing.

Even when you are on the ropes (as you are now), you seem incapable of landing a punch, much less scoring a knockout.

You avoid confrontation because that locks you in the clinches, and your opponent’s rabbit punches bottle up your carefully-crafted showmanship.

Stop dancing around the ring

When the Soviet Union was disintegrating, a reporter asked President Gorbachev (who, like you, was more popular outside his country than in) the following question: “Mr. President, is it fair to say you are moving to the right?”

Gorbachev responded: “Actually, I’m going around in circles.”

So, too, are you, Mr. President.

You continue with your Chicago-style razzle dazzle, globetrotting and speechifying, while the country is engulfed in joblessness, foreclosures, escalating wars, and an economy that makes us poorer and more frightened by the day.

Bowing to the Emperor of Japan, the Princes of Saudi Arabia, and trying to charm the heads of Europe isn’t selling anymore.

Stay home

The U.S. is adrift, in the midst of a transformational period — one that pits the new “globalism” against a new “nationalism.”

While this may constitute a less violent civil war, it is still fracturing the country.

Your attempts to pivot the country’s attention away from the near intractable core causes of economic dislocation, is unworthy of any American President.

Using a scatter gun approach may be a clever strategy to keep criticism from gaining a footing. However, it mostly just confuses and alarms people.

The equally disingenuous attempt to shame those who dissent from this whirling dervish approach, by labeling them as selfish perpetrators of racism, diminishes us all.

Turning Americans against Americans, by using age, class, religion, education, and geography as wedges is crass politics — even if, by design, only your surrogates practice it.

Stick to your promises.

Promising one thing and delivering another is not just deceitful, it is corrosive to the body politic.

So, inside your gift box, I have included a pen and some paper to ”make a list and check it twice.”

Making a list and checking it twice

Write down every campaign promise you made and check it twice. Be honest.

– Winding down or ending wars? No.
– Ending lobbyists’ influence in politics? No.
– Providing money to Wall Street to save Main Street? No.
– Guaranteeing transparency? No.
– Bringing America together? No.
– Halting foreclosures? No.
– Providing widespread mortgage relief? No.
– Reigning in Wall Street? No.

Sad, isn’t it?

Next inside the gift box: A magnifying glass to focus better on your own Administration’s job performance.

Find out who’s naughty or nice

Skip trying to silence Fox News Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, or anyone on the left, or right, or middle who disagrees with you. As of now, most of America does!

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, 65 percent of the American people believe the country is on the “wrong track.” And according to the latest polls, you have recorded an all-time low job approval ratings in each of the following:

Quinnipiac — 46 percent
Marist — 46 percent
CNN/Opinion Research — 48 percent
Ipsos/McClatchy — 49 percent
CBS News/New York Times — 50 percent

Trying to spin a political reality at odds with the country’s economic one is a losing proposition.

You may have told “60 Minutes” Sunday night that you, “did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street,” but the reality is otherwise.

“What’s really frustrating me right now is that you’ve got these same banks who benefited from taxpayer assistance, who are fighting tooth-and-nail with their lobbyists …up on Capitol Hill, fighting against financial regulatory control,” you said.

But saying it does not make it so! Clever to blame Congress and the lobbyists. The Democrats control Congress. You cut deals with the lobbyists.

Read an alternative explanation by Matt Taibbi, in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

Your guys are the bankers’ guys.

Or as Glen Greenwald writes, about your Nobel Peace Prize speech, “Like all good politicians, Obama is adept at paying homage to multiple, inconsistent views at once, enabling everyone to hear whatever they want in what he says, while blissfully ignoring the rest.”

Want real change?

Say what you think. Do what you say. Forget the verbal parsing.

Fire those that gave away taxpayer's money to the big banks — without mandating quid pro quo home loan modifications and an end to foreclosures; namely, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.

Even the Harvard faculty voted “no confidence” in Summers when he was the university’s president. Geithner’s penchant for giving money to Wall Street when he was at the New York Fed is legendary.

They both should go. Let them, “spend more time with their families” or take positions at the bonus haven of Goldman Sachs. The American taxpayer can no longer afford their services.

Promote those still trying to salvage a middle class in America — namely, economic advisor Paul Volcker, TARP Congressional Oversight Chair Elizabeth Warren, and FDIC’s Chair Sheila Bair.

Add a sheriff to your Cabinet. President Johnson wished Kennedy had at least one local cop among all those theorists.

Harvard does not have a monopoly on intelligence. Bring in some outside help. Hire someone with “street smarts.”

You need more integrity and grit in the White House; not more “breezy arrogance,” or clever double speak.

Get rid of your non-stop public relations team still shilling “talking points” to the press, and a “new narrative” to the American people.

David Axelrod may want to “tell a story,” but most Americans want more substance and less picture book.

The photos ops are too obvious. As are the now tortured “firsts;” first dinner date, first dog, first day at Camp David, first six months, first 100 days, first Cabinet retreats, first West Point cadets for your war speech, first Christmas with Oprah, etc.

Same with the silly quips, “Grab a mop.” “Pick up a mop.” “Clean up the mess.”

Frankly, the Republicans are mopping the floor with you. (Just as the Democrats did with Bush and his once “brilliant,” now devastatingly ridiculous, “Mission Accomplished” stunt.)

The press is not your friend. Even if you did give GE (parent of NBC, MSNBC) government help, and lots of reporters jobs, and way more taxpayer money than conscionable their parent company’s subsidiaries. For which, of course, they gave you wonderful coverage.

When the people and polls turn against you, the press follows.

You are now in danger of becoming the political balloon boy - losing altitude and leaking valuable air - in dramatic fashion.

The photograph

There is another item in this altogether rare, priceless, and free gift box.

It is a photograph of my prizefighting father, in a mock punching stance, facing the great world heavyweight champion, Jack Dempsey. Both men were in suits and ties.

Dempsey was posing with a bottle of beer in one hand. It was his sponsor’s new brand, “Bull Dog” beer.

The marketing slogan: “Brewed to a Man’s Taste.” Politically incorrect today, but spot on in the 1950s.

Dempsey and my father were older in the photograph, but could still look convincingly menacing.

Both of these men fought their way out of poverty, by taking, throwing, and landing punches — all in stand-up fashion.

They did not demand that the referee, the audience, the seconds, or their managers take the hits. They “manned up” and took it on the chin.

Granted, it is arrogant for a woman to give you any advice — let alone boxing tips — but ’tis the season. So I continue.

Find your inner-bulldog

As a youngster, I watched many boxing matches with my father, who provided a running commentary on pulled punches, fake jabs, below the belt hits, etc.

I was mesmerized by the combat and quickly learned to spot a “glass jaw.”

You, Mr. President, have a “glass jaw.” You can’t take criticism.

You have great handlers, super high-tech messaging centers, and a press corps happy to blow smoke in your face with a new storyline about “history.”

Your favorite game may be basketball, but the crowd-pleasing chest bumps, ballet-like leaps, and trendy fist bumps, have led you down below 50 percent approval ratings. The right, left, and middle are abandoning you.

Your life-long habit of voting “present” and ”defeating” opponents by keeping them off the ballot, may have gotten you to the White House, but your current ”down the middle” compromises are alienating your base, while emboldening your opponents.

Pick a fight. Choose a side. Defend it. Slug back.

Healthcare should not be decided by a Republican from Maine, or an Independent from Connecticut. Together, they probably represent less people than the County of San Diego.

Fight for something you believe in.

Being a celebrity is not the same as being President of the U.S. The talents needed to win a campaign are exactly the opposite of those needed to govern.

So here is my final gift. A little more free advice, so that you may be a long-term President, not the “half-term” one the GOP is planning on.

Stop these excuses:

– “Bush did it.”
– “Be patient.”
– “I inherited the mess.”
– And my favorite, “It could be worse.”

How is it possible to feed this verbal pabulum to the unemployed, homeless, bankrupt, hungry and frightened Americans that you are sworn to protect?

Even the Black Congressional Caucus has become impatient with you. As they should. Unemployment among African-Americans is 16 percent, but when underemployment and those no longer looking for jobs is added, the real rate is way north of 20 percent.

Forget nation building abroad. Build up our nation at home.

Half-term president or political genius?

Perhaps, Mr. President, this advice is wrong. Perhaps, you really will succeed and be known as a “political genius.”

For the first year, blaming the former President Bush for the country’s problems will work. However, even that is disintegrating as an excuse.

The second year — after likely Republican gains in the 2010 elections — you can blame the obstructionist GOP for America’s decline. Thus, allowing yourself to be re-elected in 2012.

It could happen. However, if that is your grand strategy, the “Ghost of Christmas Past” may terrify you all the remaining days of your life.

Colleen O'Connor is a writer for SDNN.