By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama won the presidency by exploiting a political environment that devoured George W. Bush in a second term plagued by sinking credibility, failed legislative battles, fractured world relations and revolts inside his own party.
Mr. Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.
But unlike Mr. Bush, who faced confrontational but occasionally cooperative Democrats, Mr. Obama has a Republican opposition that has refused to open the door to any legislative fixes to his health care law and has blocked him at virtually every other turn.
A contrite-sounding Mr. Obama repeatedly blamed himself on Thursday for the failed health care rollout, which he acknowledged had thrust difficult burdens on his political allies and had deeply undermined Americans’ trust in him.
“It’s legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general,” Mr. Obama said.
But earning back the confidence of Americans, as he pledged to do, will require Mr. Obama to right more than just the health care program. At home, his immigration overhaul is headed for indefinite delay, even as new budget and debt fights loom. And abroad, N.S.A. spying revelations have dragged down the country’s standing, even as negotiations over Iran’s nuclear arsenal have set off bipartisan criticism.
And for the first time in his presidency, surveys suggest that his reserve of good will among the public is running dry. Two polls in recent weeks have reported that a majority of Americans no longer trust the president or believe that he is being honest with them.
“When you start losing the trust and confidence, not only of Congress, but the American people, that makes it even more difficult,” said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. “You can work yourself out. But you have to be sincere, and you have to be honest.”
The difficulties have put Mr. Obama on his heels at exactly the moment he might have seized political advantage in Washington. If not for the health care disaster, the two-week shutdown of the government last month would have been an opportunity for Mr. Obama to sharpen the contrast with Republicans. This week, Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, added another roadblock to an immigration overhaul, but all of the attention was on the problems with Mr. Obama’s health care law.
A senior congressional Democrat expressed frustration Thursday with the opportunities that the party had missed to hammer home the ideological differences between the two parties. “There is mounting frustration and growing anxiety,” he said.
The lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss his party’s challenges, said members on Capitol Hill shared the president’s goals but were angry about the administration’s execution of them. “It is not at the boiling point, but it is getting hot,” the lawmaker said. “Everyone says the intentions are great but the execution has become a problem. They are concerned it’s going to bleed over to them.”
Mr. Obama’s top aides reject the comparison to the latter half of Mr. Bush’s second term. In their view, Americans lost confidence in Mr. Bush because of his administration’s ineptitude on Hurricane Katrina and its execution of the war in Iraq, while Mr. Obama is struggling to extend health care to millions of people who do not have it. Those are very different issues, they said.
Senior White House officials are nonetheless in crisis mode over the failure of what was supposed to be the president’s most significant legislative achievement. “We get that it is a big deal, for him, for the law, for the Democrats who voted for him,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director. “We are taking it deathly seriously.”
Some Democrats are warning their colleagues against the Hurricane Katrina comparison and a rush to count out Mr. Obama prematurely. Steve Elmendorf, who served as an influential Democratic House aide in President Bill Clinton’s second term, insisted that the current president would recover and thrive, much like Mr. Clinton did.
“He’s in a place where they don’t want to be, but I don’t think it’s a place they can’t get out of,” said Mr. Elmendorf, who is now a lobbyist.
That message was echoed in a memo that Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York, distributed to his colleagues during a caucus meeting on Wednesday. In the memo, Mr. Israel, who is the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said coming clashes with Republicans over the budget and the debt would once again play to the strengths of Democratic candidates.
In an interview, Mr. Israel said that he was confident that administration officials would be able to put Mr. Obama’s current troubles behind them. "The website will get fixed,” Mr. Israel said. “The issue with insurance policies has been addressed. We now get to focus on the shutdown, debt and budget priorities.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/us/politics/parallels-to-bush-in-toxic-political-mix-threatening-obama.html?hp&_r=1&