SAD Obama

Robert Redford disappointed in Obama

Obama’s approval rating in the Post/ABC poll is 43 percent, the lowest in this survey. But that of Republicans in Congress is 28 percent. Obama’s approval rating in the WSJ/NBC News poll is 44 percent. But the disapproval of Congress’s performance is at 82 percent, an all-time high.

The WSJ/NBC News poll highlights the most promising of silver linings for the president: 65 percent of respondents described him as “easygoing and likable.” That tracks with results released last week from the Pew Research Center .

Being likable is great. People still liking Obama means they still trust him enough to hear him out, give him a chance. But that will take him only so far. One of the more infamous encounters on the 2008 campaign trail between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton was when he said, “You’re likable enough, Hillary. No doubt about it.

And then, later in the very same poll, Americans are asked whether they support a range of Obama’s actual fiscal and economic policies. In every case, a majority or plurality supports them.

It’s true. The poll finds that only 37 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, versus 59 percent who disapprove. It also finds that only 31 percent are “extremely confident” or “quite confident” that the President has the right goals and policies to improve the economy, versus a whopping 68 percent who are only somewhat or not at all confident.

But then the pollsters ask about the policies themselves. And here’s what they find:

— A solid majority (60 percent) supports reducing the deficit by ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

— A solid majority (56 percent) supports reducing the deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

— Only 37 percent support the GOP’s solution to the deficit, i.e., reducing it only through spending cuts with no tax hikes on the rich or corporations.

— A plurality supports a federally funded roads construction bill to create jobs, 47-26, which is similar to what Obama is expected to propose in his jobs speech.

— A plurality supports continuing to extend unemployment benefits, 44-39.

— A plurality supports an extension of the payroll tax cut, 40-20.

Obama-matics, who supported the current president in the belief that his election would usher in a renaissance for our country, are sad and notably disappointed. Common Sense concluded that the lawyer from Illinois was no Lincoln, or even a Truman, perhaps the last real leader to occupy the Oval Office.

Critics of the president point to his failure to engage his allies or enemies; his perceived lack of empathy is a salient sore point. He does not provide direction to his partisans in Congress or to his base, beyond rhetoric.

In fairness to President Obama, the economic problems his administration confronts would tax the abilities of a Lincoln or Churchill, even if they were armed with MIT Phds. Moreover, the Publicans who resist common good compromise for ideological and election prospects, will reap what they have sown should social unrest erupt. Void of anything but vacuous ideas, the Publicans are as bankrupt as Lehman Bros.

The economic downturn, produced, by a tsunami of unregulated sub-prime greed, was the responsibility of both parties. George Bush, however, bears prime responsibility for failing to recognize the problem and address it. Similarly, the current occupant of the White House owns the present economic malaise and Democrats will answer for the consequences at the polls. Finally, as no Savior emerged from Chicago, no Deliverer will ride out of Tejas on a white horse.

I’d argue, for example, that President Obama’s current difficulties stem less from his being a “career politician” than from the fact that his political career was so brief before he won the White House. Experience matters, even in politics. This is why Vice President Biden, with long-standing relationships in Congress, brings value to the Obama White House. It is why governorships have proved to be such an effective preparation for the presidency.

One and Done?
Published: September 3, 2011

ONE day during the 2008 campaign, as Barack Obama read the foreboding news of the mounting economic and military catastrophes that W. was bequeathing his successor, he dryly remarked to aides: “Maybe I should throw the game.”

On the razor’s edge of another recession; blocked at every turn by Republicans determined to slice him up at any cost; starting an unexpectedly daunting re-election bid; and puzzling over how to make a prime-time speech about infrastructure and payroll taxes soar, maybe President Obama is wishing that he had thrown the game.

The leader who was once a luminescent, inspirational force is now just a guy in a really bad spot.

His Republican rivals for 2012 have gone to town on the Labor Day weekend news of zero job growth, using the same line of attack Hillary used in 2008: Enough with the big speeches! What about some action?

Polls show that most Americans still like and trust the president; but they may no longer have faith that he’s a smarty-pants who can fix the economy.

Just as Obama miscalculated in 2009 when Democrats had total control of Congress, holding out hope that G.O.P. lawmakers would come around on health care after all but three senators had refused to vote for the stimulus bill; just as he misread John Boehner this summer, clinging like a scorned lover to a dream that the speaker would drop his demanding new inamorata, the Tea Party, to strike a “grand” budget bargain, so the president once more set a trap for himself and gave Boehner the opportunity to dis him on the timing of his jobs speech this week.

Obama’s re-election chances depend on painting the Republicans as disrespectful. So why would the White House act disrespectful by scheduling a speech to a joint session of Congress at the exact time when the Republicans already had a debate planned?

And why is the White House so cocky about Obama as a TV draw against quick-draw Rick Perry? As James Carville acerbically noted, given a choice between watching an Obama speech and a G.O.P. debate, “I’d watch the debate, and I’m not even a Republican.”

The White House caved, of course, and moved to Thursday, because there’s nothing the Republicans say that he won’t eagerly meet halfway.

No. 2 on David Letterman’s Top Ten List of the president’s plans for Labor Day: “Pretty much whatever the Republicans tell him he can do.”

On MSNBC, the anchors were wistfully listening to old F.D.R. speeches, wishing that this president had some of that fight. But Obama can’t turn into F.D.R. for the campaign because he aspires to the class that F.D.R. was a traitor to; and he can’t turn into Harry Truman because he lacks the common touch. He has an acquired elitism.

MSNBC’s Matt Miller offered “a public service” to journalists talking about Obama — a list of synonyms for cave: “Buckle, fold, concede, bend, defer, submit, give in, knuckle under, kowtow, surrender, yield, comply, capitulate.”

And it wasn’t exactly Morning in America when Obama sent out a mass e-mail to supporters Wednesday under the heading “Frustrated.”

It unfortunately echoed a November 2010 parody in The Onion with the headline, “Frustrated Obama Sends Nation Rambling 75,000-Word E-Mail.”

“Throughout,” The Onion teased, “the president expressed his aggravation on subjects as disparate as the war in Afghanistan, the sluggish economic recovery, his live-in mother-in-law, China’s undervalued currency, Boston’s Logan Airport, and tort reform.”

You know you’re in trouble when Harry Reid says you should be more aggressive.

If the languid Obama had not done his usual irritating fourth-quarter play, if he had presented a jobs plan a year ago and fought for it, he wouldn’t have needed to elevate the setting. How will he up the ante next time? A speech from the space station?

Republicans who are worried about being political props have a point. The president is using the power of the incumbency and a sacred occasion for a political speech.

Obama is still suffering from the Speech Illusion, the idea that he can come down from the mountain, read from a Teleprompter, cast a magic spell with his words and climb back up the mountain, while we scurry around and do what he proclaimed.

The days of spinning illusions in a Greek temple in a football stadium are done. The One is dancing on the edge of one term.

The White House team is flailing — reacting, regrouping, retrenching. It’s repugnant.

After pushing and shoving and caving to get on TV, the president’s advisers immediately began warning that the long-yearned-for jobs speech wasn’t going to be that awe-inspiring.

“The issue isn’t the size or the newness of the ideas,” one said. “It’s less the substance than how he says it, whether he seizes the moment.”

The arc of justice is stuck at the top of a mountain. Maybe Obama was not even the person he was waiting for.

A president who punts

By Kathleen Parker, Published: September 2

What if the president gave a major speech and no one heard it?

Not a likely scenario, yet this was the question in play for several days as President Obama requested and was kinda-sorta denied an audience before a joint session of Congress<>. He wasn’t flatly denied, though House Speaker John Boehner strongly suggested that the Republican-controlled House would prefer that he speak the following night, Sept. 8. Logistics, security and various technicalities were cited.

As Kevin Smith, Boehner’s communications director, explained to me:

“No one in the speaker’s office — not the speaker, not any staff — signed off on the date the White House announced abruptly. It’s unfortunate the White House ignored standard protocol of working out a mutually agreeable date and time before making any public announcement. We want to find common ground to help create jobs and lasting economic growth that our country so desperately needs, and we look forward to hearing the president’s speech Thursday night.”

Of course, that night, which Obama ultimately accepted, was also problematic because the prime-time slot coincided with something far more important than a presidential speech on jobs and the economy — football!

The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints kick off at 8:30. Would the president mind too terribly much speaking before the game so as not to interfere? Once again, Obama obliged.

Much has been written and said about the political implications of this folie a deux between the Democratic president and the Republican House leadership. Whose fault was it that things became so testy? The White House’s claim that Boehner had agreed to the date is false, according to Boehner’s office. When notified that the president wanted to address Congress, Boehner thanked the caller for the heads-up, but nothing was agreed upon when the White House prematurely announced the date.

From the Republican perspective, there was no real downside to making Obama feel “frustrated ,” as the president described his feelings in an e-mail to campaign supporters. Boehner’s resistance to the president’s request, even if justified under the circumstances described, merely added to the growing perception that Obama is weak. He can’t get no respect. Recall that Boehner also refused to return the president’s phone calls for several days during the debt-ceiling debate.

Rude, or just shrewd?

The answer depends on whose side you’re on and whose team is “winning.” Though Democrats may protest the speaker’s “rudeness,” they also feel the increasing loserness of Obama. As pure gamesmanship, whether intended, Boehner’s move was brilliant. Just as Obama’s team had to know that his original request conflicted with a much-ballyhooed Republican debate, Boehner’s surely knew that the big game was on the alternative date he suggested. If Obama’s speech wasn’t compelling enough for Congress to pull a hasty resolution together, then what does it say that he can’t compete with a ballgame?

To be fair, all presidents have to be concerned with the timing of their public addresses. The Bush administration was no exception. Worse than going up against a football game in the idiocracy formerly known as the United States was competing with “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars.”

In one sense, Obama will profit from his positioning just before kickoff. Some percentage of viewers will tune in to the last 15 minutes of a speech they otherwise might have missed. In another sense, however, Obama’s presidency is further diminished by his perceived inability to prevail as the more important event of an evening.

This isn’t just any speech but one we’ve been awaiting for, oh, about three years — through a recession, unemployment that never dipped below the 8 percent level predicted way back when and an earthquake followed by a hurricane that disrupted the Obamas’ summer vacation. This is it. The one. The very speech that finally is going to lay out The Plan to put America back to work and get that old economy breaking a sweat again.

It’s important to the country. It may even be consequential. But the message thus far is that the president can’t command an audience. Congressional Republicans, with a little help from certain media cohorts, may have engineered the public’s consumption of that message, but they can’t really be blamed for the content.

About Jerry Frey

Born 1953. Vietnam Veteran. Graduated Ohio State 1980. Have 5 published books. In the Woods Before Dawn; Grandpa's Gone; Longstreet's Assault; Pioneer of Salvation; Three Quarter Cadillac
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