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O'Reilly: Barack Obama's box office dud

President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room

President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (Jan. 14, 2013) Credit: AP

And for best hyperbole of an alarmist nature by an American leader, the Oscar goes to . . . Barack Obama.

No surprise there. The president is a perennial winner in the category. And his ongoing performance in the sequester fight is an undeniable gem for the ages, a tour de force in the hysteria genre. The Academy had no choice but to hand him the statue. (Having the first lady on the show to accept the award in his behalf, unannounced, was choreographic mastery, quintessential Hollywood.)

So why is President Obama's latest performance a box office dud?

It has all the elements that have swooned audiences before: greedy millionaires and billionaires; corporate jets; tax loopholes for oil magnates; the forgotten middle class... It even promises imminent collapse of the U.S. military, rancid meat, air traffic havoc and teacherless classrooms. This thing should be packing theaters.

But it's not. In fact, Americans don't seem to care much at all about "Sequester, the Sequel." They are either nonplused or comfortably numb over its rollout. Whichever it is, the eyes are definitely glazed over.

Obama is doing his formulaic best to drive sales. He made his big State of the Union speech in Washington, and then hit the campaign trail on Air Force One like he always does.

He's doing small-market television interviews to avoid informed questions from the national press, and behind him at campaign stop after stop is that perfect demographic patchwork of faces in every shade and hue. He's hammering at those unhip, unpopular, unresponsive Republicans day and night by email, text message and Twitter.

But Americans remain unexcited. When you ask them about the upcoming sequester, they are approximately split on whether to make cuts or raise taxes more, depending on how the question is framed. The one thing they aren't is riled or alarmed. Even the demonstrators sent out to picket the offices of Republican House members must sense the surrealness of this moment.

Didn't we just see this film?

Isn't this the one that ends, maddeningly, "To be continued..."?

Obama has to be careful. He's wandering into dangerous territory where his legacy is concerned. He has a blockbuster franchise going, and he risks turning it into a punch line. His heretofore vaunted political team should be tied to chairs and forced to sit through "Jaws II," "Back to the Future III," Alien IV," Friday the 13th V" and "Rocky VI" (which really wasn't that bad.)

Americans want a new story line in Washington. They want cooperation. They want the growing debt crisis addressed. They want a president who leads, not a complainer in chief. They have seen the scene where the Republicans get pummeled, but they want more now. They want an end to this misbegotten saga. They want resolution.

President Obama is a talented actor on history's stage. But he's wandering into that most undesirable of territories from which you can never come back. His act is beginning to look like a Tom Cruise movie.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.