President Bush’s presidency functionally came to an end in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. If President Obama isn’t careful, his presidency will suffer a similar fate.
Google the term “Obama’s Katrina,” it's immediately seen that pundits on both the Right and Left (but mostly the Right) have been eager to identify a moment that Obama’s administration fell apart pretty much since he took office.
The BP Gulf oil spill, the Benghazi attacks, Hurricane Sandy, the IRS Tea Party targeting, even the rash of sexual assaults in the U.S. military have all been identified by prominent media figures as “Obama’s Katrina.”
And Obama’s approval rating did take some big hits during some of those crises. When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig first exploded, 50 percent of Americans approved of Obama’s job as president, according to Gallup. By July 15, when the well was finally capped, Obama’s job approval was underwater at 44 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval.
But at that point, Obama still had some good moments to come in his presidency. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. The housing and stock markets recovered. Former President Clinton gave a rousing defense of Obama’s first term at the Democratic National Convention.
More importantly, Democrats had a reason to come back and rally around Obama. He simply had to be re-elected. An Obama loss would have been a devastating setback for liberals.
Obamacare, the realization of an almost-100-year progressive project, would have been summarily dismantled before it was ever implemented. Dodd-Frank, global warming regulations, and a slew of other progressive executive initiatives would have died.
But Obama won re-election. Obamacare may still be wildly unpopular, but it is at least being implemented. And now that Obama will never be on the top of the Democratic ballot again, party faithful are already turning their attention toward protecting the presumptive 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton.
In this context, Obama’s Syria debacle, and it was a debacle, couldn’t have come at a worse time. Even Obama’s most faithful defenders have admitted Syria was a disaster of unprecedented proportions for the president.
Liberal columnist Joe Klein called Obama’s handling of Syria “one of the more stunning and inexplicable displays of presidential incompetence that I’ve ever witnessed … he has damaged his presidency and weakened the nation’s standing in the world."
Fawning Obama biographer Richard Wolffe told MSNBC that Obama’s White House Syria address was “muddled and unconvincing,” adding that Obama looked “tired” and his overall performance was “embarrassing.”
And an unnamed Democratic strategist who works closely with the White House told National Journal’s Ron Fournier that "this has been one of the most humiliating episodes in presidential history."
Furthermore, the dates between Obama’s Syria mess and Bush’s Katrina match up almost exactly. Hurricane Katrina landed in New Orleans on Aug. 29. Obama announced his decision to go to Congress on Syria on Aug. 28.
But what allowed Katrina to damage Bush had nothing to do with the hurricane. Bush’s approval rating did not really tumble until conservatives abandoned him in droves. And that didn’t happen till after Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
When Bush first nominated his personal lawyer to the nation’s highest court on Oct. 3, 2005, his approval rating was 45 percent. Two weeks later, it was down to 39 percent. Bush never recovered.
Yes, former-National Economic Council Director Larry Summers did withdraw his name from consideration on Sep. 15, but Obama, reportedly, is still favoring an administration insider.
Unless Obama caves to his base and nominates Yellen, there still is a possibility Syria could become Obama’s Katrina.Conn Carroll is a senior writer for the Washington Examiner.