POTUSes of the past largely fulfilled their function: to perfume the backroom antics of the elites who own the country and run the government. The presidents, as heads of state, are but figureheads, to be sure - but a figurehead, contrary to the impression made by this unprepossessing term, has a job, often a tough one. His task is to put a human face on something palpably not human. The job was and is that of a showman (or showdame: coming attractions), impressing and awing the morons, but above all reassuring them. Of what? Of the notion that adults are in charge of the place and there is no need to slip past the palace guards or finger a pitchfork.
President Barack Obama, however, presents something less of an enfrente, as Mexicans style it, that is, less of a front. He presents no face, no act, no perfuming of anything, no holding of things together, no sense of in loco parentis.
Instead of a figurehead apparently shielding the ship of state, we have a bare hull, smashing into various icebergs. The POTUS is AWOL or at least derelict, and the nation is becoming a derelict too obviously.
Smoke all you wish, Mr. President, but make your masters invisible and their sins palatable. It is your whole job description. The man worthwhile is the man who can offer up a Clintonesque grin when everything goes dead wrong / right.