April 29, 2009
The President's popularity remains very high, as 69 percent of Americans approving of his job performance, according to a Washington Post - ABC News poll. It's about the same as the average of other presidents, and reflects in part a slight rise in consumer optimism about the economy. He has managed to sustain his "honeymoon" period longer than most recent presidents, and aside from a few gaffes (and arguably awful decisions on budget policy), he is off to a great start. The American people just aren't too thrilled about some of his policies, however.
The policy area in which support for Obama is weakest is with regard to the fight against terrorism. The President's decision to release the classified CIA detainee interrogation memos has had a sharply polarizing effect on the public, the poll shows. During last year's campaign, he made a big deal about not politicizing the war on terrorism, and now he is finding it hard to resist doing the very same thing. It seems clear that Obama is paying back his left-wing supporters for their help in his campaign, by paying strong attention to one of their big grievances. Many voters criticized Obama for failing to cut back on political partisanship in Washington.
That article continues, "Nearly two-thirds said Obama has accomplished 'a great deal' or 'a good amount' in his first three months in office." When Obama was asked to name his biggest accomplishment thus far, he said it was restoring hope. I'm sorry to sound cynical, but hope alone isn't worth much, and unless it is based on some real prospects for improvement, it quickly dissipates.
Trouble for the Republicans: According to that WaPo article, only "21 percent of those surveyed said they identify as Republicans, the fewest to do so in a Post-ABC poll in more than 25 years." Much work remains to be done in healing the party.
The President performed well as usual during this evening's press conference, at least in terms of poise and clarity. He was evasive on some policies, however. One thing that concerns me about Obama is his frequent mention of the 2008 election results, which he claims was a repudiation of Republican economic approach. (More likely, it was a repudiation of Bush cronyism.)
It sure looked that way to me, and from the video clips, it's hard to conclude otherwise. The President was greeting King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Vienna earlier this month, and showed more deference than was proper. WaPo columnist Kathleen Parker notes that outrage over such protocol slip-ups has been overdone by some of Obama's critics, reminding us that George W. Bush committed his share of faux pas while serving as Head of State. For an administration that self-consciously emulates the style and social graces of JFK's Camelot, nevertheless, Obama needs to do better than that.