There’s something about Barack Obama that makes people feel the need to protect him. “President Obama, I’ve got your back,” declared the most popular T-shirt being hawked outside the Democratic convention. Michelle Obama has played the role of defender in some settings, Bill Clinton in others. Deval Patrick’s biggest applause line while campaigning for Obama is, “I will not see him bullied out of office.”
Usually, these expressions of bodyguard-like support do not make Obama seem weak, but rather special — “the one,” in the words of another eager blocker, Oprah Winfrey. It’s as if all these people recognized something finer-grained in Obama’s sensibility, and vowed to keep him from being broken. But lately it’s become obvious that there’s another reason all these people come to his defense: Obama isn’t comfortable defending himself. If others don’t rise to the occasion, like the super-caffeinated Joe Biden last week, then the administration is vulnerable.