You talk a lot about how being a good President is largely about being a good politician. One of the reasons you think Carter was a poor president, I take it, is that he viewed himself as above politics and did not take seriously, once in office, the job of leading his party and fighting partisan battles.I wanted to respond to this one not just because it gives me an always-welcome chance to bash Jimmy Carter, but to talk a bit about the skills politicians need.
That said, my question is this: Did Obama's debate performance on Wednesday change your opinion on him? Joe Klein said something like, it's hard to imagine this Obama (i.e., the debate version) even being able to communicate effectively to do his job.
In particular, we tend to overemphasize those things which are easiest to see, of which public speaking style is probably #1. The press is particularly guilty of this, which is natural; after all, they're in the business of communicating, and it's natural to believe that it's important. And sure, it's important.
But it's only one political skill. It's probably not as important as, say, bargaining abilities. Probably not as important as, for want of a better name for it, political instincts -- recognizing the interests and incentives of other political actors. It's probably not as important as understanding political processes, whether it's budgeting or how nominations work or how agencies run.
The Carter anecdote that goes with this is that the "malaise" speech didn't actually hurt him; it was his actions in the aftermath of the speech which (further) alienated everyone in Washington, which in turn alienated voters.