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June 14th, 2010
10:44 AM ET

Opinion: For Obama, crisis may outweigh record

Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

Democrats are seeking to run on substance of Obama's legislative record.

Democrats are seeking to run on substance of Obama's legislative record.

Editor's note: Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security: From World War II to the War on Terrorism," and of a book on former President Jimmy Carter, to be published next fall by Times Books.

Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) - A cartoonist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, Steve Breen, captured a big political challenge that President Obama is now confronting.

The cartoon features four frames, each with a picture of the president. Over the first two frames, with the president barely smiling, he says, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "It's time I displayed some rage over the worst oil spill in U.S. history." The third frame shows him staring with a poker face. The restrained smile returns in the fourth frame, which reads, "Want to see it again?"

As Democrats move into the 2010 midterm elections and start thinking about 2012, the administration is struggling to deal with two difficult crises, both of which have generated concerns about the president's response and the perceptions of him as a leader.

The first is the oil leak in the Gulf, one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in American history. The second is an unemployment rate that continues to hover near 10 percent. The slow economic recovery has still failed to make a significant dent in the number of Americans who don't have jobs. American voters are frustrated and angry.

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Filed under: Economy • Gulf Oil Spill • President Barack Obama
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