For just a nanosecond, a guy could sympathize with President Barack Obama. There he was, frozen in narcissistic hell by an unexpected photo, grinning like an errant schoolboy for a "selfie" with his pals while the world memorialized former South African President Nelson Mandela.
Who among us has not dorked it up at one point or another, ignoring even a mate's stony glare? It was, after all, just a light-hearted frolic with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron in Johannesburg, and who could blame him?
For Obama, his second term has been a soul-crushing parade of travails, with no respite. The Obamacare fiasco. His lies. A failed $600 million website. Benghazi, horrific and multifaceted. The NSA's pervasive eavesdropping. His clownish Syrian response. The IRS' targeting political enemies. Seizing AP telephone records. The Fast and Furious gun-walking fiasco that got people killed. Attorney General Eric Holder's fibs. And on and on. There seems no end, no chance to take a breath.
Oh, for an instant, it appeared Republicans self-destructed by shutting down government, offering Obama a diversion, but even that evaporated. Obama's job approval ratings are circling the drain. A record 58 percent said they disapproved in a Quinnipiac University poll this month. Only 38 percent said they approved.
Worse? "The majority of the 2,692 registered voters the university (polled) in early December said that the president is not honest and trustworthy," Time magazine reported. Who knew?
Then, Time reported this bit of good news for the GOP: "The President dragged down Democrats, too. For the first time this year, 41 percent of American voters said that they would vote for a Republican over a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives, versus the 38 percent who said they would not."
Guys like Mark Begich who tied themselves to Harry Reid and Obama - even casting a crucial Obamacare vote - must be gasping. Obama has been a punch to the solar plexus.
What to do? What to do? You can almost hear Obama's advisers: None of this is good, not for you, not for Democrats. Not good at all. How do we deflect? Dodge? Redirect? Hey, they ask, what about our fall-back - that class-war thingy? That always sells. Americans hate rich people and the press loves it.
So the drumbeat begins, the Democrat invocation unheard since the last election: The evil rich have too much; the downtrodden poor, too little; government must make things right. Government must save us. Obama is government. Obama is good. Pay attention to this and not all that other stuff. Amen.
Too predictably, Obama begins hectoring his lap dog press, proclaiming a growing economic gap between rich and poor as "the defining challenge of our time."
In reality, Obama's real challenge should be producing more rich and fewer poor.
The "new rich," better educated and hard working, are a political thorn for Democrats. It turns out, they believe government's role in their lives should be limited. They are a menace to the Left and its agenda, which has little to offer them, making them tempting targets.
Hope Yen, in an Associated Press story about a AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, quotes Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University professor specializing in political polarization as saying: "For the Democrats' part, traditional economic populism is poorly suited for affluent professionals."
Yen points out 20 percent of American adults become rich -- by some standards only $250,000 a year -- at some point in their lives Yippee!
As a group, the new rich are "much more fiscally conservative than other Americans, polling suggests, and less likely to support public programs, such as food stamps or early public education, to help the disadvantaged," Yen reports.
No wonder Obama et al., are squirming, but instead of resorting to some cockamamie scheme to redistribute wealth and punish success to conjure a political diversion, government should find ways to encourage the poor to become the new rich. Rich, after all, is better than poor. Ask a poor person.
None of that appeals to Obama's authoritarian, socialist bent. In his world, it is easier to push down than raise up. Too bad. Success should not be unwelcome. It should be cultivated and encouraged. The world has enough misery.
You would think a successful guy like Obama, who himself, by virtually any standard, would be described as "rich," might get that.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.
By PAUL JENKINS