Unpopular President Obama

Most Presidents have a decline in their popularity by the time of the first midterm elections in their term, but few Presidents, except those who have reached an artificial high in popularity immediately following a national crisis, have fallen as far and as steadily as Obama.  When he was sworn into office, his approval ratings were in the mid-sixties.  The Real Politics average of current approval polls, has Obama approval at 45.3%.  The interesting thing about the decline is how steady it has been, just as the percent of the American people disapproving of Obama has steadily increased, and is now at 50.7%.

Even the artist who came up with the dopey socialist realism “heroic” multi-colored posters of Obama has recently expressed disappointment with him.

My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, believes the Obama decline will continue for the following reasons:

1) A bad agenda. Nearly every issue the president embraces polls against him, often at a 3-1 margin. Cap and trade, amnesty, state-run health care, more bailouts, takeovers, deficits, taxes, and the national debt. His vision is the same as that of the EU circa 1990 — one that even Europe now rejects as a failure.

The answer to every challenge is to found a new program, borrow billions to run it, hire millions more loyal to the progressive gospel of public employment, and demagogue any who oppose it.


Hanson is on to something with this statement: The answer to every challenge is to found a new program, borrow billions to run it, hire millions more loyal to the progressive gospel of public employment, and demagogue any who oppose it.  Most analysts of Obama have stressed how different Obama is from past presidents.  Stylistically yes, to some extent, not in substance.  On economic issues Obama is a reactionary, a throwback to the New Deal Democrat era: massive spending on government projects is the way to restore economic health.  It was a dubious remedy almost eight decades ago and appears not to work at all today.  The failure of the stimulus to have any positive impact on the economy, and the inability of Obama to come up with any truly new policies to meet the economic malaise of the present, is now clear to all, even to many members of Obama’s own party.  Few things are more sad than a one trick pony who can’t even perform the one trick properly and that is the case with Obama on the Alpha and Omega political issue:  the Economy.

2) Anything, anytime. The president does not conduct himself in a sober and judicious manner and neither do those around him. On any given day he can slur Arizonans as wanting to round up innocents on the way to ice cream. He can slander police as stupidly acting stereotypers. The attorney general can call us cowards and swear without reading a bill that it profiles the innocent. Legitimate worry over a Ground Zero mosque translates into anti-constitutional efforts to stifle freedom of worship. Those with money — defined by an arbitrary annual income level of $250,000 — owe the rest of us their ill-gotten gains. Surgeons transmogrify into tonsil-loppers, insurers are greedy, investors are put back at the end of the creditor line; all are worthy of a boot on their necks and a kick in the ass.


Two of the greatest gifts any politician can have is the gift of the two Ms:  Mouth Control and Message Control.  Calvin Coolidge in one of his laconic quips once said, “I have never been hurt by what I have not said.”, and that should be engraved in the oval office.  Obama can’t seem to help himself in getting involved in unnecessary controversies due to his inability to govern his tongue.  He also lacks the discipline to stay on message and will often find himself going down sideroads that do him no good.

3) There is no eloquence, period. Part is the fault of the worst speech-writing team in modern presidential memory. They make the most elemental of errors, whether turning Cordoba into a beacon of Islamic tolerance during the Inquisition or claiming “Mexicans” were here in North America before Americans, well before the idea of the nation of Mexico existed.

The president himself suffers from three rhetorical liabilities. He simply cannot leave the teleprompter — even for a second. To do so means that “like a dog” petulance immediate spews forth. Second, the divergence from his sort of nerdy Harvard Law Review wonk-talk and his Rev. Wright black-church preaching is simply too wide to suggest that he is just modulating Hillary-like for audiences. Instead, the Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde deliveries infer not just patronizing, but something far more disturbing: Mr. Obama does not seem to know himself quite who he is. Third, he cannot leave the campaign mode. So all his lectures are rehashes of hope-and-change, Bush did it, I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my — spiced with the now tedious “Let Me Be Perfectly Clear” and “Make No Mistake About It,” as if we are inattentive school children and he the headmaster at the front of the room clamoring for our attention. The result? He is overexposed to the point that eyes roll and backs turn when he drops his g’s and starts in on “they” and “them.”

I have never considered Obama a great orator.  At most, I rate him as adequate.  Obviously he thinks he is great orator and the people who advise him think he is a great orator, and that his speeches can be a valuable asset in swaying public and congressional opinion.  I see no evidence of this.  Hanson makes a very valid point of Obama being overexposed, although partially this is due to the 24 news cycle in which we now live.

4) His team is imploding. We heard all this fluff last year about “Team of Rivals” as if our new Lincoln was going to collect brilliant and ambitious contrarians, and by sheer force of brilliance brew administrative excellence. He never read anything other than Ms. Doris Kearns Goodwin apparently. Lincoln finally had to fire the duplicitous Chase and Cameron. Stanton was a loose cannon who slurred the Union hero Sherman. Half the Lincoln cabinet was trying to do him in during the dark days of August 1864, as Lincoln himself dumped his VP Hamlin and in desperation tried to find a military icon before settling on the so-so Johnson. Lincoln succeeded despite his errors in selecting such a witch’s brew, not because of it. Take away Sherman inside Atlanta in early September 1864, and have him end up instead bogged down in Georgia like Grant in Virginia — a wrecked army and no capture of a key enemy city — and Lincoln would have lost to McClellan.

Orszag, Summers, and Romer are going or have gone. Geithner will leave too. Emanuel will be out — and leak to the world that his pragmatic “genius” was rejected. The so-called centrists like Gates and Jones will leave soon, before the reckoning of a Carter 1979 year comes due. I doubt Hillary will stay unless there is a rebound back over 50%. The more Bill bites his lip in praise of Obama, the more we know what’s coming. All presidential teams implode at some point; few at so early a juncture and fewer with an entire economic team leaving in the midst of the chaos they helped to further.

Here I have to disagree with Hanson.  I think Obama’s inner circle has been mediocre in the extreme.  Change in this area might help him, but only if Obama makes sensible appointments and then listens to sound advice.  I am not sanguine on either point.

5. Obama has been lucky but it won’t last. You say, “No, wait a minute! After all he inherited two wars and a near depression!” Not quite. His bad war he campaigned against is essentially over in Iraq, and was by the time he entered office. The good war he wanted at in Afghanistan heated up when we turned our proverbial eye to it, largely because the president made it clear he did not wish to meet Stanley McChrystal for months, imposed artificial deadlines of withdrawal, and divided up responsibility between a feuding Gen. McChrystal, Amb. Eikenberry, and Richard Holbrook who apparently hated each other as much as they did the enemy.


What’s ahead? I am afraid a reckoning in world tensions: China-Japan, North-South Korea, Iran and its neighbors, another Mideast war, Russian expansionism, a crack-up in the EU — to be fair, not just because of Obama, but in part accelerated by the sense that Obama either does not care or tends to be more sympathetic to those who voice grievances such as his own against the U.S. than to our allies who traditionally give us the benefit of the doubt. There will be a lot of jostling as nations seek to make readjustments in the new climate of anything goes.

I think we have yet to see the great crises of the Obama administration, Lord help us all.  A conflict with Iran looms, the economy may well be slipping into another recession or worse, and anarchy in Mexico is spreading north across our border.  Obama may well look back at his first two years as the good old days.  Go here to read the entire brilliant post of Hanson at Works and Days.

11 Responses to Unpopular President Obama

  1. Blackadder says:

    All of this is epiphenomenal. Obama’s low popularity is a result of the bad economy. If the economy improves, so will his ratings. If not, they will continue to get worse.

  2. Art Deco says:

    The President’s economic advisors did not create ‘the chaos’. The economic problems we have were gestating from the end of 2003 and the crisis erupted before these characters took office. The positions held by Dr. Orszag and Dr. Romer change hands every 2 1/2 years on average and that held by Dr. Summers every 2 years, so their tenures are not exceptionally abbreviated.

  3. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Presidential popularity is governed to a large extent by the economy BA, but not entirely so. President Bush 43 had a fairly decent economy for most of his tenure, but his downward spiral of popularity began in 2005 and was bad enough by 2006 to hand the Congress to the Democrats. Presidents can come back from a bout of unpopularity, but it becomes progressively harder to do the longer the unpopularity goes on, especially if the President appears clueless to meet the challenges he confronts. Bush 41 in 1992 went into the election with an improving economy after a very mild downturn. However, his betrayal of the no new taxes pledge and the perception that he was not a good steward of the economy had solidifed in the public’s mind that it was time for a change. If the economy is still sour at this time in 2011, I don’t think it really matters how the economy performs in 2012.

  4. Afghani"Stan" says:

    The “stimulus” that was to cure the economy did not and only seems to made things worse. Applying a “cure” employed in the 1930’s by FDR only made the current situation worse.

    By all accounts the Great Depression could have been over by 1936 had FDR not spent like a drunk sailor on liberty. Bottom line is it did not help and only WWII ended the Great Depression.

    Flash forward to 2009 and the Boy Genius applied the same cure and guess what…it did not work. This falls on the Democrats folks.

  5. Paul Zummo says:

    I think the economy is an overrated factor in this discussion. The President and Congress have enacted policies that large percentages of the population disapprove of. The economy of course plays into popular dislike of the President, but I don’t think that a sudden economic turnaround will have quite the beneficial impact on President Obama’s popularity as people expect.

  6. Art Deco says:

    By all accounts the Great Depression could have been over by 1936 had FDR not spent like a drunk sailor on liberty. Bottom line is it did not help and only WWII ended the Great Depression.

    The labor market was badly damaged by what happened during the period running from the fall of 1929 to the spring of 1933 and was not properly arighted until about 1942/43. However, production levels at the end of 1936 were very near what they had been in 1929. Per capita income in 1941 was about 15% higher than it had been in 1929. The economy had recovered and then some befor the war.

    As for Mr. Roosevelt spending like a drunken sailor, I am not sure there was a single fiscal year over that twelve year period where public sector borrowing exceeded 4% of domestic product. I think economists vary a good deal as to the multipliers to expect from public expenditures, but one of the President’s critics among economists has said that WWII data indicate that public expenditure can be stimulating (with a multiplier exceeding unity) when there is such slack in the economy that the unemployment rate exceeds 12%. That rate in 1933 was about 25%.

  7. T. Shaw says:


    You insulted drunken sailors everywhere. They spend their own money. These squanderers are spending your grandchildren-s money.

    Obama and his uber liberal cronies daily strike us with contemptuous disdain for traditional American virtues, and continuously impose policies and regulations that are comprehensively devoid of logic and common sense.

    They insist that every nation and every culture is superior to America; that illegal aliens and Islamic jihadists are entitled to free everything plus all rights (vote themselves dem pay raises each November) and privileges of U.S. citizens; that giving 31 million additional people health insurance will save (the 10% of Americans that pay 95% of the taxes) billions; that Supreme Court justices are social workers who wear black robes to work; that drilling for oil or digging for coal are evil; that windmills, sunbeams, and unicorn farts will supply all the energy for an industrial economy; that Christian symbols must be eliminated from the national landscape, but Ramadan must be a national holiday; that the redistribution (to fornicaters, felons, haters, terrorists, etc.) of Americans hard earned money is a moral imperative; etc.

    PS: My keyboard isnt doing quotation marks or apostrophes anymore.

    Art: Can you identify one financial panic (on average one each ten years prior to the Great Depression) that lasted 17 years?

  8. T. Shaw says:

    Oh, wait! Must be charitable.

    Obama et al are doing one something correctly.

    They stopped torturing terrorists. Hooray! All pro abortion catholics – be proud!

    Now, they are assassinating them by umanned aerial weapons platforms.


  9. Art Deco says:

    Can you identify one financial panic (on average one each ten years prior to the Great Depression) that lasted 17 years?

    From the foundation of the domestic banking system in 1792 to the present, there have been four sets of financial panics that were consequential for the real economy: 1837/40, 1873, 1929/33, 2008/??. The third was manifest in the stock market crash (Oct.-Dec. 1929) and three waves of bank failures (Nov. 1930-Mar. 1931, May 1931-Mar. 1932, Nov. 1932-Mar. 1933). It did not last 17 years, it lasted 3 1/2 years, on and off.

    See Kenneth Rogoff on the general patter of economic contractions induced by financial crises. They tend to be longer and more durable in their effects than the ordinary run of economic contraction. We did and have experienced not just that, but an economic contraction synchronous with that of other countries.

    As it was, our economy was producing below long term trend lines from 1840-46, from 1873-80, and from 1929-41. The Great Depression was severe compared to previous experience and compared to what occurred in most other occidental countries. It was not different in kind. In any case, nearly all of the damage to production and employment occurred before Mr. Roosevelt took office and a recovery of output began almost immediately in the spring of 1933, co-incident with a series of measures the administration took to stabilize the banking system and stop the deflation.

  10. T. Shaw says:

    Dr. Zero: Let me put this bluntly: virtually no one in America gives a damn what Barack Obama says about anything at this point. What could be more predictable, and less interesting, than Obama’s opinion on any given subject? Who wants to contemplate the economic wisdom of a guy who looted the Treasury for a trillion dollars, with less benefit than we could have achieved by stuffing hundred dollar bills into random cereal boxes? Who’s excited to hear about the next plan to convert taxpayer dollars into Democrat campaign funds? Who’s hungry for another hour of tedious excuses about permanently broken markets and the titanic dead hand of George W. Bush? Who wants a lecture on ethical business practices from the titular head of the party that gave us Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters? What use is another hollow foreign-policy speech from a man who sees no global adversary to rival the menace of Arizona? Even Obama’s supporters don’t hear anything he says any more. There’s nothing left to hear.

    Quotation mark does not work. Need new keyboard.

    No one except Obama worshipping zombies.

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