There must be moments at 3 a.m. when Barack Obama lies awake in the White House, not because some new national-security crisis has erupted per Hillary's poke at him in the 2008 primaries (he's actually handled those pretty well, thanks in part to the Navy SEALs), but because he's wondering: Why me? Oh why Lord? I mean, it wasn't enough that I inherited a historically large economic crisis at home, and two long and wasting wars abroad.
Did the frigging eurozone really need to fall apart on my watch too? And five months before the election?
It's not that he hasn't tried to deal with that too. The biggest agenda item at last weekend's G8 summit was the unannounced one, when Obama, joined by a new ally, French President Francois Hollande, energetically sought to persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel to moderate her ruinous austerity policies. Judging from the outcome, he made no headway. At a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, Merkel and Hollande--the two leading figures in the eurozone--demonstrated, once again, that they share a relationship on this issue that is approximately as close as Mars and Venus.
And so now, for the third time in as many years, a spring crisis in the eurozone--the worst one yet--could determine the fate of the frail U.S. economy, and Barack Obama's future. In an outcome that is already beyond bizarre, the electoral prospects of the most powerful man in the world could now lie with a 37-year-old radical Greek leftist, Alexis Tsipras, a favorite in the June 17 Greek election, who is engaged in a titanic game of chicken with Merkel over the austerity measures being forced on Greece. If you don't relent, Tsipras is saying, Greece is gone, and with it could go the eurozone. Oh, and the world economy.
All President Obama can do is watch the show. And try to get some sleep.