Let's be blunt: President Barack Obama is struggling with a growing perception that he and his people are in over their heads.
It may be unfair, given opponents who decided on an unprecedented strategy of unyielding resistance. They have shamelessly sabotaged almost any progress or possible success for this administration.
But how do they get away with it? Shouldn't effective politicians be able to roll over those on the other side of the partisan blockades?
It may also be that the Obama communications team does a lousy job of, uh, communicating. The message about what accomplishments there have been has been drowned out by the loud braying of opportunistic politicians and commentators on the Right sidelines.
How is it that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs looks so much like he has his hands tied at the very same time he swings wildly at any questioner? That can't be possible. Can it?
But forget about surrogates -- isn't it ultimately the Chief Executive who should speak softly and carry a big fly swatter?
Unfortunately, this President only seems to have gotten the "speak softly" part down. It's hard to be "No Drama Obama" in such a theatre of the absurd.
No matter how many times his handlers feed pliant reporters some story about how he glowered behind closed doors or snapped "Plug the damned hole" in a snitty moment, it still seems like just a moment... that this is a man who doesn't instill fear when he needs to.
So every time he clenches his jaw and makes another "No More Mr. Nice Guy" speech, everyone yawns and says, "Yeah, whatever." As a result, in spite of the promise of "Change you can believe in," it looks like things are basically UNchanged.
The oil companies still are in control even when apparent sloppy greediness by one of them results in massive destruction. The bankers and investment chiefs whose inept avarice caused a worldwide economic collapse not only go unpunished, but they're getting huge raises while everyone else struggles to stay afloat.
The insurance companies used all the tried-and-true tricks to finesse attempts at meaningful health care reform, leaving a hollow shell.
Speaking of reform, those who came in promising a new way of life in Washington wallow around in the same-old-same-old with their Chicago-machine like patronage, where government jobs are offered as favors.
This list doesn't even address the grandiose declarations about more enlightened ways to handle terrorism and terrorists, and detainees and national security and civil liberties. Enemies still thumb their noses, as do the critics at home.
Here are some fair questions: In today's world of instant communication and blatant demagoguery, is an effective presidency even possible?
If so, is it premature to judge this one less than 17 months in? Perhaps. Except when will the impression of Barack Obama's audacious hopefulness be consumed by one of timid haplessness? And when will it have slipped too far in the public mind for this presidency to recover?