Specifically he has been boxed in by the people who created the conditions for global economic catastrophe (the free market fundamentalists of the GOP) and the people who are most likely going to get the blame for it (the Europeans, particularly them feckless southern ones).
The President's approval ratings are already low enough to suggest that re-election in 2012 will be an uphill struggle, so you can understand why he's been war-dialling Sarko and Merkel lately in the hope that some sort of firewall can be erected across the Atlantic, strong enough to hold up through the autumn of next year.
As far as the wider institutions of the EU are concerned, the path of least resistance is always going to be a bigger mess rather than a stronger union, especially under the present set of constraints, time in particular. But Obama has to be hoping that the French and the Germans at least can come up with a coordinated approach to bolstering their banks and ring-fencing other vulnerable, yet not entirely bankrupt economies such as Italy and Spain, in the increasingly likely event of the Greeks coming unstuck some time before the US Presidential election.
G20 finance ministers meeting in Washington DC this weekend have been pepped up by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's calls for a 'decisive signal', but perhaps their minds will have been even more concentrated by the reported remarks of Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, who apparently thinks his country has three options at the moment, and that the best of these is treating its creditors to a 50% 'haircut'.
Meanwhile, surely the best case scenario for the US administration right now is a contained explosion in Athens, which somehow fails to develop into a cataclysmic chain reaction.