Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Can it get any worse for Obama?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 11:42 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Obama in a tough stretch, facing policy debacles, low poll numbers
  • If it were a movie, his character would be surrounded -- but he can change outcome, he says
  • He says he must aggressively press agenda and also aim for Democrats to retake House
  • Obeidallah: GOP dictating narrative, but he must take control before term runs out

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the co-director of the new comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" It was released recently. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Things are looking horrible for President Barack Obama. There's the Obamacare website fiasco. Ongoing allegations of National Security Agency spying on European leaders. There was the government shutdown that damaged the economy on his watch. And a new poll released this week finds Obama with his lowest approval rating -- and his highest disapproval rating -- ever.

If this were a movie, we would be at the part where the hero finds himself surrounded. He has no escape routes and he's outgunned. What will happen next: Will our hero prevail like John McClane in "Die Hard," or will he fail like William Wallace in "Braveheart"?

Well, the good news for Obama is that the script for the final scenes of his presidency has not been written yet. The bad news is that he may not be the one writing it.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Simply put: Obama is not the protagonist driving his own story. Rather, his storyline is being dictated by others. No question, he has long had trouble controlling the narrative, with a GOP bent on denying him, basically, everything he wants. But now he's heading toward the end of his final term -- and the clock is ticking on his agenda.

Obama's main antagonist, of course, is the hyper-partisan Congress that refuses to agree on the most basic issues, such as raising the debt ceiling, which Congress has done more than 40 times since 1980. And unless something changes, it's looking bad for immigration reform, universal background checks for gun purchases, income tax reform or any of the other proposals he outlined in his State of the Union nine months ago.

Perhaps the worst thing about the problems with the Obamacare website is that they occurred at a time when things were finally looking politically brighter for Obama. Though the government shutdown had been an unwelcome setback, polls showed after it ended that Americans blamed the Republicans in Congress for it much more than they blamed him. It looked as if Obama had righted his ship and would be able to refocus Americans on his priorities.

It was as if Obama had become George Clooney as the captain of the fishing boat in "The Perfect Storm." The rain has stopped, the ocean is turning calm and there is even a glimmer of sunlight; he's beaten the storm. But then moments later, the sky darkens and there is a deluge of rain. The choppy waters (in this case, the Obamacare website debacle) soon consume the ship.

Cost of Obamacare exchanges
Cruz's dad: Send Obama 'back to Kenya'

Is this Obama's metaphoric fate? He can accept another plotline -- let's say of "Gravity," with Obama as a character like Sandra Bullock's, hit with one harrowing challenge after another. This may be exciting to watch, but not great for the character, who has no idea what will happen next.

I'd recommend a different story line. I'd use the ending of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" as inspiration and metaphorically go out with guns blazing. Why not set some lofty goals that will frame the agenda anew going forward?

First, Obama should announce that retaking control of the House in 2014 is a top priority. Yes, many districts have been gerrymandered to all but ensure re-election for Republican House members. But he should take the fight to his adversaries anyway. Unseating some tea party House members has become newly possible after the shutdown mess. Their approval ratings are just below toe fungus. Can the President maneuver through this new landscape and turn it to his advantage? Even getting more moderate Republicans into the House could be a step toward sanity. (Sometimes you have to improvise to make a story line work.)

Obama should also use executive orders to the extent legally possible to attain his policy objectives. He did this very thing in 2011 when he ordered that many children of parents illegally in the United States would no longer be deported.

Sure, the Republicans will push back -- they will say Obama is behaving like a "king" or "tyrant" and complain about him nightly on Fox News. But the upside is that the debate will be about the issues the President has chosen.

It's denouement time for Obama as we enter the final act of his presidency. Will the President's agenda continue to be dictated by others, making him nothing more than a lame duck, caretaker President? Or will he use every means at his discretion to write his own story?

Obama is the star of this movie. The only question is: How is it going to end?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT