The slipping popularity of our president
Editors Baltimore Times | 6/20/2013, 11:44 p.m.
Since President Obama seems to be a reflective soul, he must be reflecting on the irony of his latest predicament: as the man who came into office promising to change everything and who instead seems to face challenges from an obstructive Congress that does not and will not buy into his agenda.
The economy is slowly getting better and he was re-elected with enviable approval ratings from the American people. But something has happened.
The president appears to be shedding his progressive persona and liberals and progressives don't seem to like the policies of the many they just sent back to the oval office nine months ago.
The president has rightly called for a public debate about the proper balance between national security and privacy but the debate cannot happen without him. In fact, he needs to lead it. That's what presidents are supposed to do when the country is having a national conversation. It's part of the job description.
In the National Security Agency controversy, we have heard from the leaker, the director of the NSA, the director of national intelligence, the members of the intelligence committees. We heard a bit from the president, who seems to be saying, in effect, "I'm glad you guys are talking about this, because we are going to have to make some tough choices as a society."
Here's what we know: The president entered office skeptical of the very programs he is now defending. But after vetting them and adding some additional protections, he now thinks they are important, even integral, to our self-defense.
In fact, the public's view of the Obama administration's handling of civil liberties is beginning to eerily resemble what the public thought about Bush: Forty-three percent in a new CNN poll say the administration has gone too far in restricting some civil liberties in order to fight terrorism. In 2006, 39 percent thought Bush had gone too far. That's the same Bush that then-Senator Obama excoriated for the "warrantless wiretaps" in 2006.
However, the worst news for the president is that he seems, at least right now, to
be losing the benefit-of-the-doubt factor he has enjoyed because people think he's an honest guy who tries to do the right thing. The latest CNN polling shows that while 49 percent of Americans consider the president to be "honest and trustworthy," that's down nine points in one month and his approval rating has fallen eight points to just 45 percent. The unkindest drop, fueling the entire downward trend, comes from Obama's stalwarts'97 younger voters. A huge 17-point decline among the under 30 set has got to be some sort of wake-up call.
Now, I know this president doesn't like some parts of his job. He doesn't much like schmoozing members of Congress, despite his recent share-a-meal plan with
assorted Capitol Hill types. He doesn't like the LBJ-style strong-arming, either. He doesn't much like the messy lawmaking process in which personal relationships can often mean the difference between getting what you want and getting nothing at all. And he doesn't ever like to be pushed. Ever. Remember No-drama Obama?
However, he does like speeches. He likes writing them, redrafting them, pondering them. He likes giving them, too'97 because he's good at it.
So speak! The American people need more of the Obama they fell in love with in 2009. He needs to do interviews, host a few Town Hall style interactions and maybe kiss a few babies. It appears our citizens are not responding well to the new security and privacy policies of this president and they need him to explain himself.
Let Americans in on the real secret that is puzzling them: how this president has been affected by what he has seen from the Oval Office. Some may buy it; some may not, but letting us in on this secret may reverse the slip in the people'92s trust in this president.