You’ve already heard all about the disappointing jobs report this morning, raising fears of a double-dip recession:

The 83,000 jobs added by the private sector was a better performance than in May, when private job creation nearly stalled. But it fell far short of what the economy needs — at least 200,000 jobs a month — to bring down the unemployment rate.

Nobody, from Obama to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to private economists, expects that anytime soon. . . . Unemployment is expected to stay above 9 percent through the midterm elections in November.

Ironically, if that’s the case, the political beneficiaries will be the Republicans whose fiscal and (non-)regulatory policies brought on the economic plunge two years ago, and are most likely to keep prolonging the suffering.

It’s yet another case of the supposedly-in-power Democrats lacking the courage to do the things that would actually help them the most.  As Josh Marshall noted today,

Republicans are pushing the argument that the stimulus spending which probably forestalled a Depression actually didn’t do anything or even caused the problem. And the public seems open enough to that interpretation of events that Democrats have written off any new stimulus spending because they’re scared off by the mid-term election. And because the Democrats have, Obama has.

. . . It all has the look of watching a car head off the edge of a cliff in slow motion.

The only thing Marshall misses is the extent to which Obama’s timidity is a self-fulfilling prophecy that would put Shakespeare’s Macbeth to shame.   Matt Yglesias writes today that “Looking back at a wide array of progressive interest groups’ thinking in the winter of 2008-2009, I think history will show that essentially everyone put too little emphasis on a ‘do what it takes to fix the economy’ strategy.” But when you get to the bottom line, no one cares what “progressive interest groups” thought or should have said — it was the Obama administration and the Democratic leaders in Congress who had the duty to act, and who will pay the biggest political price for their failure.

So you’d think that they, even out of a cynical desire for self-preservation, would have had the sense to do the right thing.  Yes, because of the presence of faux-centrists like Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman et al. in the Senate and the Blue Dogs in the House, in many ways the Democrats’ majority control was more perceived than real.  But when the fear of challenging them — choosing imperceptible or even meaningless “victories” over the potential embarrassment of a clear-cut defeat — means surrendering without a fight in the battles you (and the American people) most need to win, a theoretically cautious and sensible political strategy becomes one that’s foolishly scared of its own shadow.

I’ve never bought the arguments that Obama as president is no different than a Republican (and heaven forbid that we have to learn that the hard way).  But the undeniable truth is that in 18 months in office, he’s never put his famed charisma and eloquence on the line to make a difference from what any generic Democratic president would have done or gotten passed through Congress — he’s governed not as the Barack Obama who inspired voters with promises of hope and change in 2008, but as if he had been elected to serve Bill Clinton’s third term.  And the tragic result of that timidity is that Obama may never get a chance to do anything more, even if he wanted to.