The first book about a new administration by Bob Woodward, Washington's court chronicler, usually promises to be the high watermark for an incoming commander-in-chief.
Officials are reluctant to dish the dirt because they have the chance of years of employment ahead of them. The cynic might think that a positive portrayal helps position the Watergate scribbler nicely for access next time.
It was the late conservative columnist Robert Novak who divided public figures into sources and targets. Woodward generally treats those who talk to him kindly while those who don't get a more damning verdict.
So it was of little surprise that the biggest problem Woodward must have had with his Obama's Wars was deciding how to cull the herd of White House officials eager to spill the beans.
But the clamour among staffers to present their boss and themselves (not necessarily in that order) in the best possible light has backfired spectacularly.
A president has no more solemn duty than that of being commander-in-chief. And judging from the evidence presented by Woodward, Barack Obama's view of that role is at best disquieting.
Nearly 100,000 American troops are now committed to Afghanistan but Obama's principal war aim is to withdraw and his main preoccupation is how the conflict plays domestically, particularly within his own Democratic party.
"This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan," Obama says at one stage. At another he declares that "everything we're doing has to be focused on how we're going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint".
Obama comes across as viewing his generals with thinly-disguised hostility, while at the same time acquiescing to their proposals for the escalation of the Afghan war he so wants to avoid. His arbitrary drawdown of July 2012 was a signal to the Taliban to hang on because American commitment to success was lukewarm and time-limited.
The description of Obama staffers glorying in the firing of General Stanley McChrystal because they believed it boosted the president's macho credentials (it did the opposite) brings shame on the administration.
Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the coverage of it is that the White House is so delusional it seems to think their man has come out of it rather well. In fact, Woodward's book will further damage Obama and could not have come at a worse time.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds him at an all-time low of 42 per cent approval, against 54 per cent who disapprove.
Obama has even lost Shepard Fairey, the man who created the iconic red and blue "Hope" poster of Obama's visage. Those who elected Obama, he said this week, feel cheated. "They wanted somebody who was going to fight against the status quo and I don't think that Obama has done that."
The president can't stop blaming George W Bush for anything that goes wrong but it will be the current rather than the former president who Democrats will take to task after November.
Obama scarcely helped himself this week when he responded in a CNBC "town hall" event to a black woman who said she was "exhausted of defending you" by prefacing his answer with "as I said before" – code for "you're clearly too dumb to have understood me the first time".
David Axelrod, the most civilised of Obama's closest aides, has been tasked to make nice with liberals and encourage the media to get back behind the man who was their candidate in 2008.
The result? Not much doing. When he announced his desire to "enlist" liberal bloggers for the midterms, one tore into him, accusing the White House of engaging in "hippie bashing".
Reporters were not impressed by Axelrod's demand in a Washington Post opinion piece that the press needed to investigate Republicans. These days, the White House press corps is feeling unloved by Obama's inner circle and a tad embarrassed about 2008.
In the meantime, Obama's Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are either running away as fast as they can from the president or curling up in the fetal position by postponing a congressional vote on whether to extend the Bush tax cuts – a move that makes them look both weak and cowardly.
For the first time, and despite the fact that no credible Republican candidate for 2012 has yet emerged, Obama is looking like a one-term president while one-party rule in Washington is in its death throes.
When Woodward writes his book about what is happening now, he could do worse than call it The Great Unravelling.