All of those Masterpiece Theatre fans out there will recall the scene in which Claudius cowers behind the curtains after the assassination of his Uncle Caligula.

Well, it’s an analogy I can’t push too far, but doesn’t Barack Obama seem to be cowering behind the curtains right now, willing to do anything but be a strong president as the world erupts?

John Podhoretz of Commentary has a brilliant item (“Obama’s Presidency Hangs by a Thread”) on this state of affairs, but he goes in for a different analogy:

Japan may be on the verge of an unprecedented catastrophe. Saudi Arabia is all but colonizing Bahrain. Qaddafi is close to retaking Libya, with bloodbath to follow. And, as Jim Geraghty notes, the president of the United States is going on ESPN to talk about the NCAA and delivering speeches today on his rather dull plan to replace No Child Left Behind with No Teenager Left Behind, or something like that.

It’s hard to overstate how poorly Barack Obama is doing in the face of these crises – and I don’t even mean how he’s doing substantively, which is a scandal in itself. I mean how he’s doing politically. Recall how much hay Michael Moore made of the fact that George W. Bush read My Pet Goat for nine minutes in that Florida classroom on 9/11 after being informed that the first plane had struck.

We’re going on four weeks now, or more, that Barack Obama has been reading My Pet Goat.

Although I did not vote for Barack Obama, I have been pulling for him to seize the opportunity that the eruptions in the Middle East present. In many ways, this is the moment we’ve been waiting for-despots falling, a new day dawning. But the president resorts to delaying tactics-we need more consultations, more meetings-anything to avoid acting like a president.

What is so sad about this is that the world right now is begging for American leadership. Sure, everybody is critical of American power, but, when the chips are down, they want to U.S. to help them out. A naif about history, Barack Obama took them at the word when they were expressing anti-American sentiments.  So he cowers, trying not to offend this despot or help that rebel. He will do anything to avoid doing something.   

Here is something I noticed, too, but it took Roger Kaplan of the American Spectator to get into wider circulation:

In a breath-taking, yet characteristic, statement, President Obama said the other day that “it is in the interests of the United States, and more importantly in the interests of the Libyan people, that Mr. Gaddafi leave…” Who elected him, the American people or the Libyan people? And yet, is this not the typically perverse liberal formulation of why we do anything?