A great and assumed question, the one that's still floating out there, is what exactly happened when Mr. Obama did himself in? What led to it? ... Maybe what happened isn't a mystery at all. That, anyway, is the view expressed this week by a member of the U.S. Senate who served there with Mr Obama and has met with him in the White House. People back home, he said, sometimes wonder what happened with the president in the debate. The senator said, I paraphrase: I sort of have to tell them that it wasn't a miscalculation or a weird moment. I tell them: I know him, and that was him. That guy on the stage, that's the real Obama.
This is the Obama that Bob Woodward wrote about in his new book.
The portrait it contains of Mr. Obama—of a president who is at once over his head, out of his depth and wholly unaware of the fact—hasn't received the attention it deserves. Throughout the book, which is a journalistic history of the president's key economic negotiations with Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama is portrayed as having the appearance and presentation of an academic or intellectual while being strangely clueless in his reading of political situations and dynamics. He is bad at negotiating—in fact doesn't know how. His confidence is consistently greater than his acumen, his arrogance greater than his grasp.