Shaming the White House press corps, a regular American named Velma Hart recently asked President Obama the toughest question he has heard since being elected to the Oval Office. After describing herself as a middle-class American with two kids attending private school and a person who supported the president's vision and promises of a better future for Americans, Hart dropped a bomb: "My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives, but quite frankly, it's starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we're headed again. ... Is this my new reality?"
The president was taken aback and, after an awkward smile, fell back on his accomplishments. He ticked off a few things he has done for the middle class and promised better times ahead.
For her part, Hart later told CNN that she still believes in the president but is frustrated with the political climate in America. She is beginning to doubt that the hope and change Obama promised are attainable.
And she's not alone. The truth is that millions of Americans are doubting whether the supremely confident Obama can solve the vexing problems that are facing the nation, and indeed, there is a growing belief that he is making things worse by imposing a big-government strategy in a time of economic crisis. There is no way for the president to rebut that belief because the economy is still a mess, despite massive federal spending. All Barack Obama can tell Velma Hart and other Americans is that he believes things will get better and that the country is on the right path. But that sounds like typical political spin, and the president has to know it.
If Obama were in sync with the folks, it's possible he would be able to buy himself a bit more time, but he's not. Things such as his not addressing the "wisdom" of the ground zero mosque and his Justice Department's suing the state of Arizona over its tough anti-illegal alien law have made the president suspect in many middle- and working-class precincts. Not only is Obama getting crushed by the economic numbers but also his cool leadership style is not playing well in a white-hot 24/7 media cycle that zeros in on every piece of bad news.
It took guts and conviction for Velma Hart to make her case face to face to a president she admires. But Hart was honest, to the point and genuine. She spoke for millions of Americans who are frustrated and confused with the state of the union. And the president, for all his rhetorical skills, had no real answer.
O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show "The O'Reilly Factor."