If I had to bet my house on who the next US President will be, President Barack Obama wouldn't be on my list. He's a nice guy with a great family and a wonderful way with words but since his inauguration on January 20, 2009, he's done nothing but disappoint. His intellect has got in the way of his decision-making. He's the antithesis of his predecessor, the sometimes incoherent George W. Bush, a man who didn't allow caution to get in the way of his hang 'em high, warmongering agenda.
The fact that Obama is a thinking person who carefully weighs the pros and cons should be to his advantage but it isn't. He's lacked the courage of his convictions throughout. When it came to fulfilling his promises, he's failed to put his neck on the line. He said he would engage Iran but he hasn't. His outreach to the Muslim world in Cairo has fizzled.
He pledged that he would bring about a Palestinian state and all he did was dip his toes in the water only to withdraw them when things got too steamy. Heaven forbid he should stand up to the pro-Israel lobby! It sounds unbelievable, I know, but his Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has recently said that the Obama administration would work to end the anti-Israel bias in the UN Security Council.
He's reneged on his absolute commitments to closing Guantanamo, ending military tribunals for detainees and reforming the Patriot Act. He pledged to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in 2011 but now Pentagon officials say 2014 is more likely.
He shilly-shallied over telling former presidents Tunisia's Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak to go. And when he took on the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with the full force of US military power, he could hardly wait to order his pilots to scurry back.
Instead, he's abandoned Libyan rebels to the hands of bureaucratic Nato, a cumbersome organisation obliged to take permission from all its member states before its commanders can sneeze. The less kind accuse the president of putting his 2012 election chances before finishing what he started. It's little wonder he's gained the reputation of ‘Ditherer -in-Chief'.
In December, the president's approval rating sank to 39 per cent according to a Zogby poll; it's currently hovering around 40 per cent. His only Congressional coup was a watered down version of his healthcare bill which Republicans are threatening to repeal as soon as they get the chance. The problem isn't what Obama's done but what he's neglected to do, which is why many of his former Democratic cheerleaders have turned against him.
Worst of all, his lacklustre performance — that many Americans are interpreting as weakness — may pave the way for a far more decisive, colourful and aggressive figure, such as the real-estate magnate and sometimes reality TV host Donald Trump. The self-made billionaire with the unusual hair-style is seriously mulling throwing his hat into the ring.
In recent weeks, Trump has been doing the rounds of television talk shows casting aspersions on Obama's assertion that he was born in Hawaii and demanding the president produces a birth certificate. He's actually sent private detectives to Hawaii to ferret out the truth.
He's heavily critical of Obama's confusing Libya policy saying when it comes to foreign affairs "we take care of ourselves first". "I'm only interested in Libya if we get the oil," he announced, adding "the world is laughing at us" but "they won't be laughing if I'm elected president."
Complaining that the US has never been as weak and vulnerable, he's sounding more and more like a neocon's neocon. He rails against countries like China and Saudi Arabia for being a threat to the US economy and says Americans shouldn't be paying for troops to protect South Korea from its belligerent neighbour.
Not a stretch too far
Trump is encroaching on Sarah Palin's territory by wooing the Tea Party crowd and polls suggest he is currently their number one favourite. More surprising is his 52 per cent favourability rating among Republicans as a Gallup survey indicates.
Some commentators are speculating that his bid isn't serious because he won't want the details of his wheeling and dealing aired in public; others maintain Trump is deadly serious. I think he probably is as he recently met with the Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus to talk about the presidential nomination schedule.
Visualising this brash casino-owner and his Slovenian ex-model trophy wife Melania in the White House is a stretch but hardly a stretch too far when US voters have elected an actor for president, a muscle-bound Austrian-American action star for Governor of California and a Slovak-American wrestler as Governor of Minnesota.
Will there be a day when Trump will turn to Obama to say, "You're fired"? It's too early to tell. But I do know that if the American public embraces the Donald on the rebound, the rest of the world is in for a very bumpy ride.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Some of the comments may be considered for publication.