Something — some unseen force — has kept President Obama’s approval ratings from seeking their natural rock-bottom level. This is not to say that his polling numbers have been good; anything but. After hitting a nadir of 40% in December 2013, his Real Clear Politics average has been idling in the low 40s ever since.
But at the risk of being called a racist (which anyone who doesn’t sing daily hosannas to Obama is called anyway), I will posit that if he were anyone else, his approval numbers would be a good ten points lower. The level of sheer incompetence betrayed by the administration’s rollout of Healthcare.gov and continually escalating problems with Obamacare, the VA scandal (or non-scandal if you’re Nancy Pelosi), and — most notably — the potentially deadly outing of a CIA station chief (which vastly outplames Valerie Plame, a desk jockey) would be enough to unseat most leaders.
So why is Obama still standing? A better question, in light of the fusillade of attacks on his competence from his own party, is why hasn’t he changed his game? To continue with a sports analogy (and assuming that impeachment is out of the question), he has two and a half years left in his presidency — way too much time to run out the clock. So why is he still making speeches like this one, delivered at a Democratic fundraiser last week?
You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible. And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses. But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early-childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.
They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.
So the problem … is not that the Democrats are overly ideological—because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side. There are no radical proposals coming out from the left. When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy. When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism. We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together …
When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago. We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education.… Health care—we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system. All we said was, let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts—the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.
So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true. What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.
If you went into his remarks and edited out every misstatement of fact, every distortion, every exaggeration, every straw man argument, you’d end up with maybe a couple dozen words, all boiling down to a familiar Obaman saw: Things in the nation are bad, and it’s somebody else’ fault. For the first four years of his administration, the blame went to his immediate predecessor. Now it is the Republicans who control one chamber of Congress.
Why is he still making the same tired sweeping generalizations he has since Day 1? If he wants to make an argument that immigration reform should be passed, why lead with the demonstrably false statement that “every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits [and] help spawn entrepreneurship”? Why insist that Keynesian economics, which the nation tried in his first months in office, spending close a trillion dollars on a stimulus package, is a “proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy [and] create more jobs”?
Why claim that blaming both parties for the stagnation in Congress is “a false equivalence” when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to allow a vote on more than a hundred bills sent over from the House?
These questions have no easy answers, all seeming to derive from whatever pathology drives Obama to fail time and again only to reassert his own belief in his greatness. For now, I close with an observation of Obama’s current failings by long-time supporter Ron Fournier who writes at National Journal:
Obama could be forgiven for trying to motivate his liberal base with distorted and overheated rhetoric, if it wasn’t clear that he actually means it.