Garance Franke-Ruta produced an empathetic specimen of this genre, suggesting that performing the role of a Commander-in-Chief ordering death and destruction is simply wearing Obama down.
She may have something; the guy certainly seems too reflective to be able to let responsibility for all that carnage just bounce off him.
Harold Meyerson offers an even more interesting hypothesis about why Obama sometimes seems paralyzed:
Does he understand all this? Much of what any of us are able to know and observe about our society depends on whether there are others around us who confirm that we are seeing something real. The President is surrounded by advisers and appointees who are in the business of not seeing this, who deal in technical fixes to the economy that attempt to paper over underlying inequities and dangers. He hasn't been at all hospitable to the chorus of economic gurus like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz who point to deep rot in the system. Moreover, nobody the President deals with every day has personal experience with the widespread collapse of economic hope that is the current norm; people who so far have profited from current economic arrangements have escaped into a different world from ordinary folk. Smarts can only take him so far into that reality.
If the 99 percent want a President who notices and remains conscious that our economic system has stopped working, we have to create our own understanding of what's wrong and ensure that our voices pervade what passes for debate. Most of our politicians have very little incentive to confront systemic economic failure, national and international inequity and violence, and our destruction of the planet's balance. The world, as it is, works for them. Leaders smart enough and generous enough to confront ugly realities will not be able to move in better directions unless they are surrounded by an aroused people who intelligently demand new directions. We aren't there, though of necessity, we're working on it.
Until then, Obama with his periodic brain freezes is about as good as we're going to get and we need to keep him in office for another term.