FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019
CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
BY BOB FRANKEN
President Barack Obama has a big problem. If he isn’t careful, it could cause his presidency to unravel. In fact, many believe it already has started to.
If a new CNN/Opinion Research poll is more than a measure of the political moment and instead reflects a trend, then he’s in a heap of trouble. It not only shows slippage on how he’s handling various issues, but overall his disapproval rate has shot up to 54 percent. Worst of all, the percentage of those who believe he is honest and trustworthy has slipped below 50 percent for the first time. For a leader who has always gotten high nice-guy points, that’s huge.
Obviously, the timing matters. He been chewed up by Republicans who see blood in the water from the administration’s self-inflicted wounds and perceptions of heavy-handedness and ineptitude that his political enemies have exploited. There has been a big drop among independents and, notably, those who formed his base, the young and other blocs of supporters.
A common lament from those who were inspired by his “Change We Can Believe In” message is that he has disappointed them. Nothing has really changed — same stuff, different president. For some of them, his rationalizations for massive surveillance are identical to the ones from the previous White House. He may seethe at comparisons to Dick Cheney, but the fact that his natural allies are drawing the parallels and that he even has to dispute them demonstrate the depth of his credibility problem. In a fantasy debate with him, one of them might say, “I knew Barack Obama ... You’re no Barack Obama.”
The malaise buttons for progressives are pushed by what they see as vacillation. What the Obama people describe as deliberate, liberals call hesitant on issues that cover much of the left range, from environmental, to social, to national security, to economic. Their standard-bearer, they moan, has been too quick to lower the banner in the name of compromise and expedience.
Deal-making is obviously necessary, but if the accommodations succeed only in creating a consensus of dissatisfaction, then we’re stuck. Promises are ridiculed, and the reputations of those who make them suffer. That’s what’s happening to Obama.
To be sure, these same polls show even greater contempt for the folks on Capitol Hill, where all progress goes to die. The latest from Gallup shows just a 10 percent approval — the lowest ever. Congress is now the most unpopular institution in the U.S. of A., far beneath even journalists. That’s low.
The Republicans continue to be dominated by their extremists, who seem disinterested in correcting impressions that they are a bunch of intolerant crazies, on the wrong side of gun control, gay rights, immigration reform, abortion — you name the social, economic or cultural issue. Their response? They double down.
Mr. Obama has always benefited politically from the comparisons, but recently some of the wild flailing by the other side has landed. That doesn’t bode well for this White House, nor does it offer a lot of hope for a nation that is slipping. It’s also noticeable overseas. When he was just starting out, Barack Obama and the hopes he represented basked in worldwide adoration. Although he still gets favorable marks across the ponds, the hot love affair has been turned lukewarm by accumulated disillusionment. He has not delivered. Guantanamo Bay, which he pledged to close, remains open. Add to that embitterment against deadly drone attacks, and now the revelations about massive cyberspying, and we have a growing international consensus that Obama is just another same-old, same-old American leader.
At home and abroad, unmet expectations have drained the enthusiasm of those who were inspired by his rhetoric. Frustration in his base could sap any energy from the remaining Barack Obama presidency, which could be remembered by his natural supporters as a big disappointment.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.