"There cannot be a crisis next week," Henry Kissinger once quipped, "my schedule is already full." It's a line President Barack Obama ought to borrow right about now.
This hasn't been a good week for the nation's 44th president. The one before it wasn't so hot either, nor was the one before that. Come to think of it, Obama hasn't had a really good week since being re-elected last November.
It's hard to know where to begin: Implementing Obamacare is proving to be the train wreck Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) warned it would be; our clumsy efforts to snag catch-me-if-you-can 29-year-old Edward Snowden are causing international incidents from Beijing to Moscow to Sucre; secularists in Egypt -- who should love America -- are furious at the administration for having backed the just-overthrown democratically elected Sunni extremist regime; the president's "redline" over the use of chemical weapons in Syria was crossed, yet the president is hamstrung on what he can do about it; and, noting that, Iran is moving ever closer to realizing nuclear weapons and regional hegemony. The IRS and reporter hacking scandals also continue to fester, and the unemployment rate isn't budging at 7.6 percent.
Have I forgotten anything -- other than what Snowden actually revealed about the NSA, Benghazi, stalled immigration reform and the debt ceiling fight coming in September?
I realize I'm piling on. But not inaccurately. President Obama's second term is having real problems. Events are overtaking his capacity to lead, leaving his administration desperately needing to demonstrate competence -- at anything.
Is there another target out there that Seal Team Six can take out?
Of all these crises, the one most damaging to the president's legacy may be the partial delay of his unpopular signature achievement, Obamacare. That looks bad. Really bad. And the administration knows it.
When the best possible spin is that you're suspending the employer insurance mandate, a detested program in the business community, to keep it from being used as a political cudgel in the midterm elections, you know you've got problems. Because the truth is far more damaging: No one can figure out how to implement Obamacare as its written because it is a deeply flawed and impossibly complicated law. It doesn't help that the Republicans have been saying that since well before Obamacare passed, when Nancy Pelosi was uttering inanities like, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."
Obama is almost certainly now realizing what President George W. Bush did in 2005: Being president is a really hard job. And when it rains, it pours -- in Bush's case, literally, with Hurricane Katrina, a hit from which 43 never recovered.
When Nikita Khrushchev was deposed as the Soviet leader in 1964, he famously sat down and wrote two letters to his successor, Leonid Brezhnev.
"To my successor," Khrushchev wrote. "When you find yourself in a hopeless situation from which you cannot escape, open the first letter. It will save you. When you again find yourself in a hopeless situation, open the second letter."
Soon enough, Brezhnev found himself in a situation that he couldn't get himself out of. He tore open the first letter. It said, simply, "Blame it all on me."
Obama's problem is that he's already done that -- about 1,000 times.
Khrushchev's second letter read: "Sit down and write two letters."
If President Obama doesn't get his administration moving in a clear and competent way soon, he'll be reaching for that second letter far too early into his second term.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.