Wednesday, September 10, 2014

President Obama Approval Ratings and Leadership

I am not a President Obama partisan. I supported other candidates. I think the President has been a more or less average President. I have been severely disappointed on his foreign policy and civil liberties moves. I think that by instinct and training the President is too often cautious when he should be bold. That aside, given the nature of the United States political economy one would have been foolish to expect any President, let alone the first Black President to have been a fire breathing transformative figure of justice for race, gender, class or any other issue that is near and dear to the Left. That's just not how things work, despite what Cornel West says. It's not original to me and I can't remember where I read it but just recently I perused something that claimed (perhaps jokingly, perhaps not) that just as soon as any US President is inaugurated he is shown an unreleased tape of the events in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 and asked if he has any questions. I don't know about that but for whatever reason President Obama has been something of a disappointment to some notable progressive figures, most recently filmmaker Michael Moore. For some reason some white progressives always seem to be surprised and vaguely disappointed that not every black politician is Nat Turner Malcolm X the 3rd, a fire breathing reject from a 70s blaxploitation movie who's here to kick a$$ and stick it to the Man. I'm not entirely sure such a man would have been elected President. Nah, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have been. But it's not just rotund Michiganians that the President has to worry about pleasing. His approval ratings for leadership have reached new lows just as he plans to address the nation this evening to discuss his strategy for dealing with the group ISIS.
Barack Obama’s rating for strong leadership has dropped to a new low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, hammered by criticism of his work on international crises and a stalled domestic agenda alike. With the midterm elections looming, Americans by a 10-point margin, 52-42 percent, see his presidency more as a failure than a success.
Just 38 percent now approve of Obama’s handling of international affairs, down 8 percentage points since July to a career low; 56 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time. Fifty-two percent say he’s been too cautious in dealing with Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria. And the public is ahead of Obama in support for a military response to that crisis, with 65 percent in favor of extending U.S. air strikes to Syria.  
Now you can always find reasons to blame the guy in the Big Seat before you for leaving you a big old s*** sandwich to chow down on. Almost every President does that, especially if the previous President was a member of the opposite party. Heck, even if the previous President was a member of your party, would be Presidents often find it prudent to distance themselves policy wise, just ask Hillary Clinton. I think that the Iraq war pursued by President Bush and the entire Mid-East policy pursued by previous Presidents have been utter failures. ISIS would not exist as it does now had the US not invaded Iraq and unwittingly released and restoked ethnic and religious tensions across the region. Unlike what Cheney and other neocons claimed, invading Iraq did not lead to peaceful multiparty democracies in the Middle East. But that's not important now. President Obama is in charge. He will have to convince people that he knows what he's doing and that he has a coherent and applicable foreign policy strategy. Ironically, Congress, which has the constitutional power to declare war and end funding for war, has been in hiding on the issue, scared to say yea or nay. It is much safer to effectively vote "Present" and then blame the President if things turn out bad or say you were with him all along if things work out. That's a failing in our system.

Nevertheless whether it is "optics" as the President and his supporters dismissively term it or an actual "failure of leadership" as trained conservative critics bray on command, there does seem to me to be a certain hesitation, a certain reluctance, a willingness to "lead from behind" which can be somewhat offsetting to the American public. As pointed out in the ABC NEWS link though the saving grace for the President is that the Republicans in Congress and Congress in general are seen in an even worse light. Their constant "no" on everything and their embrace of racialized ugliness have left Republicans in a bad place, nationally. Also I think that people forget sometimes, in part because of the 24-7 news cycle and constant "scandal that fizzles out", that we do not live under a parliamentary system. Even if almost everyone thinks the President is the worst President ever and the Democrats get slaughtered in the midterms, absent impeachment and conviction, President Obama still has two years and change left in his term. He's not going anywhere.

Still, from a purely partisan perspective, it might help Democrats heck it might help the country, if the President could provide or be seen to provide some stronger leadership and clarity. I don't understand how he can claim he doesn't need congressional approval for war in Libya, turn around and say he probably does need it in Syria and now hint that he may not need it for Iraq and Syria. You have to give your supporters something to rally for, not just constantly say the other guys are worse. Although that may be true I'm not sure that gets people to the polls in November or helps your party keep the White House in 2016.

What do you think?

Do you think the President has provided strong leadership?

Do you have any serious disappointments with the President?

If you could talk to him what you like to him to say in his speech tonight? Will you watch his speech?

What policy changes would you ask him to make? What can he do to improve the public perception of his leadership?

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