Commentary Magazine


Topic: CBS News

Media Bias and the Real Opportunists

Politico’s savvy and generally reliable media news columnist Dylan Byers wrote about Sharyl Attkisson’s forced departure from CBS news. In a piece published shortly after Attkisson expressed worries about her computer being tapped—at a time when we learned about government spying on Fox News’s James Rosen and several other journalists at the Associated Press—Byers broke the story about the antipathy for the investigative reporter’s work uncovering information about Obama administration scandals on the part of most of the CBS staff. It was clear, Byers wrote, that many of her colleagues thought that her fearless reporting was out of line. The majority of those working in the mainstream press think that giving Barack Obama the same aggressive scrutiny that had been directed at George W. Bush is unacceptable or even partisan. Thus, Attkisson’s departure earlier this month came as little surprise to Byers or anyone else.

But now that Attkisson is writing a book about her experiences and thinking about the next chapter in her career, Byers is taking a cynical tone about her struggles. In a piece published on Friday titled “Media career path: Cry media bias,” Byers seems to be saying that the same person he had previously praised as a “dogged reporter” who had not played political favorites with her coverage is merely doing what is necessary to get a big payoff and perhaps even land a gig at Fox News:

It’s an increasingly well-traveled path: Over the course of the past two decades, a handful of journalists have left mainstream media jobs while decrying what they saw as an inherent bias in their own industry. Among them: Bernie Goldberg, John Stossel, and Doug McKelway — all of whom found a home at Fox News, a cable news channel that markets itself on the premise that the media is unfair and unbalanced.

To those who don’t believe there is bias in the media, such criticisms can seem like a self-promotional stunt. Various national surveys show that a majority of the population doesn’t trust the media. So if you’re going to leave it, why not fashion yourself as a martyr, pick up a loyal following in the process, and prove your bona fides to Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the hope that he’ll offer you a contract?

While Byers finds sources to support and oppose this thesis, it is a preposterous argument. While it is true a few outliers have gone public with their complaints about the monolithic political culture of most mainstream broadcast and print outlets and eventually found their way to Fox, what happened to them is the exception that proves the rule. There’s a reason why people like that wind up at Fox. By breaking the code of silence about the supposed objectivity of newsrooms like the one at CBS, they have nowhere else to go.

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Politico’s savvy and generally reliable media news columnist Dylan Byers wrote about Sharyl Attkisson’s forced departure from CBS news. In a piece published shortly after Attkisson expressed worries about her computer being tapped—at a time when we learned about government spying on Fox News’s James Rosen and several other journalists at the Associated Press—Byers broke the story about the antipathy for the investigative reporter’s work uncovering information about Obama administration scandals on the part of most of the CBS staff. It was clear, Byers wrote, that many of her colleagues thought that her fearless reporting was out of line. The majority of those working in the mainstream press think that giving Barack Obama the same aggressive scrutiny that had been directed at George W. Bush is unacceptable or even partisan. Thus, Attkisson’s departure earlier this month came as little surprise to Byers or anyone else.

But now that Attkisson is writing a book about her experiences and thinking about the next chapter in her career, Byers is taking a cynical tone about her struggles. In a piece published on Friday titled “Media career path: Cry media bias,” Byers seems to be saying that the same person he had previously praised as a “dogged reporter” who had not played political favorites with her coverage is merely doing what is necessary to get a big payoff and perhaps even land a gig at Fox News:

It’s an increasingly well-traveled path: Over the course of the past two decades, a handful of journalists have left mainstream media jobs while decrying what they saw as an inherent bias in their own industry. Among them: Bernie Goldberg, John Stossel, and Doug McKelway — all of whom found a home at Fox News, a cable news channel that markets itself on the premise that the media is unfair and unbalanced.

To those who don’t believe there is bias in the media, such criticisms can seem like a self-promotional stunt. Various national surveys show that a majority of the population doesn’t trust the media. So if you’re going to leave it, why not fashion yourself as a martyr, pick up a loyal following in the process, and prove your bona fides to Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the hope that he’ll offer you a contract?

While Byers finds sources to support and oppose this thesis, it is a preposterous argument. While it is true a few outliers have gone public with their complaints about the monolithic political culture of most mainstream broadcast and print outlets and eventually found their way to Fox, what happened to them is the exception that proves the rule. There’s a reason why people like that wind up at Fox. By breaking the code of silence about the supposed objectivity of newsrooms like the one at CBS, they have nowhere else to go.

Labeling those who call out media bias as opportunists turns truth on its head. While Goldberg and Stossel (and perhaps now Attkisson) did not suffer for their candor the fact is the media practices de facto segregation when it comes to politics.

Anyone who wants to stay on the mainstream media gravy train either agrees with the industry’s liberal groupthink or keeps their mouth shut. Those few who do speak out about it are more or less ostracized and forced to seek employment elsewhere. Meanwhile the vast majority of those who continue to work at the big broadcast networks and most of the influential dailies are so biased they actually think critical reporting about a liberal president they personally support is somehow wrong and those who pursue such stories are worthy of suspicion rather than praise. The chattering classes may actually believe their pose of objectivity is based on the truth, but that is just an illustration of how distorted their viewpoint has become. It is they who are the real opportunists, not Goldberg, Stossel, or Attkisson.

Liberals—including the ones who currently work at the White House—look down their noses at Fox and dismiss the stories and the opinions it broadcasts. But it bears repeating that the reason it was created and for its astounding success is that it provided a much needed and long-delayed alternative to the stultifying and uniform liberalism broadcast elsewhere on the dial. The genius of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was in addressing the needs of an underserved market niche composed of almost half the American public.

Sharyl Attkisson’s fate at CBS wasn’t an illustration of opportunism but rather one that showed what happens to those who dissent from the liberal party line. Let’s hope she lands on her feet. But the bias problem she leaves behind at CBS and that at other liberal mainstream papers and broadcast outlets remains a glaring indictment of the American press.

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The Media’s Obama Protection Society

The news that CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson is leaving the network does not come as any great surprise to those who have followed her career. Last year, at a time when we learned that the Obama Justice Department was spying on Fox News’ James Rosen as well as a group of reporters at the Associated Press, Attkisson reported that her computer had been hacked. But, as Dylan Byers wrote in Politico, Attkisson had an even bigger problem: most of her colleagues at CBS didn’t like the fact that she had spent the last few years reporting aggressively about the Obama administration’s various shortcomings and scandals. Journalists at mainstream media outlets like to pretend that they play it down the middle when it comes to whoever is in power. But it was hardly a coincidence that the prevailing office culture at the network that the president trusted, in Steve Kroft’s memorable phrase, not to make him “look stupid,” would think ill of a reporter that thought it worth her time to investigate stories like Fast and Furious, Solyndra and Benghazi. If, as Byers reports today, Attkisson has come to a parting of the ways with CBS after “hard fought negotiations” that led to her departure prior to the expiration of her contract, it was due to the following factors:

Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt that her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.

At the same time, Attkisson’s reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled “Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington” — that addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the administration.

While Attkisson is just one reporter and CBS has long since ceased being a dominant force in the national media, this may be a crucial moment in the history of American journalism. It was assumed that any major news outlet would regard aggressive coverage of all administrations as a given. But that ceased to be the case when Barack Obama entered the White House. If Attkisson is being shown the door at CBS it is not because her work is not highly regarded but because she has violated the prime directive of liberal media insiders: thou shalt not report on Obama in the same way that you reported on George W. Bush or even Bill Clinton. The liberal bias that conservatives have long complained about is out of the closet.

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The news that CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson is leaving the network does not come as any great surprise to those who have followed her career. Last year, at a time when we learned that the Obama Justice Department was spying on Fox News’ James Rosen as well as a group of reporters at the Associated Press, Attkisson reported that her computer had been hacked. But, as Dylan Byers wrote in Politico, Attkisson had an even bigger problem: most of her colleagues at CBS didn’t like the fact that she had spent the last few years reporting aggressively about the Obama administration’s various shortcomings and scandals. Journalists at mainstream media outlets like to pretend that they play it down the middle when it comes to whoever is in power. But it was hardly a coincidence that the prevailing office culture at the network that the president trusted, in Steve Kroft’s memorable phrase, not to make him “look stupid,” would think ill of a reporter that thought it worth her time to investigate stories like Fast and Furious, Solyndra and Benghazi. If, as Byers reports today, Attkisson has come to a parting of the ways with CBS after “hard fought negotiations” that led to her departure prior to the expiration of her contract, it was due to the following factors:

Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt that her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.

At the same time, Attkisson’s reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled “Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington” — that addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the administration.

While Attkisson is just one reporter and CBS has long since ceased being a dominant force in the national media, this may be a crucial moment in the history of American journalism. It was assumed that any major news outlet would regard aggressive coverage of all administrations as a given. But that ceased to be the case when Barack Obama entered the White House. If Attkisson is being shown the door at CBS it is not because her work is not highly regarded but because she has violated the prime directive of liberal media insiders: thou shalt not report on Obama in the same way that you reported on George W. Bush or even Bill Clinton. The liberal bias that conservatives have long complained about is out of the closet.

While most journalists have been reliably liberal in their politics for decades, the culture of the profession has always valued an “agin’ the government” mentality in which all politicians are viewed with cynicism. So long as even liberal journalists regard it as their duty to ferret out stories about corruption, mismanagement and failure within the government, we can feel safe that no administration, even one that is favored by the left, will escape the scrutiny necessary to provide accountability.

But there is little doubt that this has begun to change since Obama came to office. After the media hammered both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush throughout their presidencies, Obama has had it relatively easy. Part of it is due to the special hold that this historic president has over liberals. The growing bifurcation of American society in which the country has been divided between those who read the New York Times, listen to NPR and watch mainstream networks and MSNBC and those who read the Wall Street Journal, listen to talk radio and watch Fox News, has also affected journalists who should know better. The culture at CBS and like-minded outlets is to see any aggressive reporting about the president and his policies as evidence of wrong thinking rather than part of their obligation to ask uncomfortable questions and speak truth to power.

There was some hope last year that the spying on the AP and James Rosen would, especially when combined with other scandals involving the IRS and Benghazi, motivate the liberal media to start doing its job with regard to this administration. But the ouster of Attkisson combined with the relative lack of interest on the part of most of the press to follow up on those scandals while treating those involving Republicans — like Chris Christie’s Bridgegate — as the second coming of Watergate, means that partisanship has prevailed over integrity in much of the mainstream media.

One has to wonder why anyone interested in anything but White House talking points would choose to watch CBS News if a reporter like Attkisson couldn’t work there. This partly explains the decline of CBS and other liberal networks. But it also sends a clear message to the public that they can’t trust CBS and any other network where aggressive coverage of the administration is no longer welcome. This confirms what conservatives have been talking about for years but it ought to sadden anyone, no matter their politics, who understands the role of a free press in a democracy.

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Cronkite and the Roots of Media Bias

An essential element of the mainstream media’s myth about its own impartiality is the notion that before Fox News came along we were living in a golden age of broadcast news reporting. The days when national news was the dominion of three networks and a few major newspapers is portrayed as Eden before the fall, an era when partisanship of the kind that is now both familiar and expected was unknown. A key element to this fairy tale is the idea that the journalistic icons of the time, like CBS’s Walter Cronkite, were Olympian figures who would never stoop to play favorites or inject ideology into the news.

But this view is totally false. As media news analyst Howard Kurtz writes in the Daily Beast, a new biography of Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley spills the beans on the godlike anchorman’s unethical practices, including blatant partisanship that would make the conservative talkers on Fox and the liberals on MSNBC blush. While Kurtz still admires Cronkite in spite of his flaws, the problem here is not just that god had feet of clay after all. It’s that the truth about Cronkite throws the entire narrative of the liberal mainstream media under the bus. It wasn’t Fox that poisoned the well of journalism, as former New York Times editor Bill Keller recently alleged. Fox and other such outlets were brought into existence in an effort to balance a journalistic establishment that was already tilting heavily to the left. The real sin here is not bias or even partisanship but the pretense of fairness that Cronkite exemplified.

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An essential element of the mainstream media’s myth about its own impartiality is the notion that before Fox News came along we were living in a golden age of broadcast news reporting. The days when national news was the dominion of three networks and a few major newspapers is portrayed as Eden before the fall, an era when partisanship of the kind that is now both familiar and expected was unknown. A key element to this fairy tale is the idea that the journalistic icons of the time, like CBS’s Walter Cronkite, were Olympian figures who would never stoop to play favorites or inject ideology into the news.

But this view is totally false. As media news analyst Howard Kurtz writes in the Daily Beast, a new biography of Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley spills the beans on the godlike anchorman’s unethical practices, including blatant partisanship that would make the conservative talkers on Fox and the liberals on MSNBC blush. While Kurtz still admires Cronkite in spite of his flaws, the problem here is not just that god had feet of clay after all. It’s that the truth about Cronkite throws the entire narrative of the liberal mainstream media under the bus. It wasn’t Fox that poisoned the well of journalism, as former New York Times editor Bill Keller recently alleged. Fox and other such outlets were brought into existence in an effort to balance a journalistic establishment that was already tilting heavily to the left. The real sin here is not bias or even partisanship but the pretense of fairness that Cronkite exemplified.

To confront the unvarnished truth about Cronkite is not to entirely discount his value as a television performer. There was much to admire about his news sense, and his on screen persona was a commanding and trusted presence that everyone who appears on television aspires to emulate. But the beloved Cronkite who generations of Americans grew up watching was only part of the picture. What Americans didn’t know about Cronkite gives the lie to the notion that the pre-Fox era was one in which non-partisan fairness ruled the airwaves.

According to Brinkley, Cronkite’s partisanship against Republicans (especially Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon) and in favor of liberal Democrats was so open that it must now seem shocking that he was rarely called out about it. He practically conspired with Bobby Kennedy during the run up to his presidential candidacy and was not too proud to stoop to dirty tricks at the expense of Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat he didn’t like.

Kurtz pardons Cronkite’s agenda-driven approach to the news because some of it was motivated by support for good causes like civil rights. But any biased journalist can make the same excuse. Cronkite’s vaunted independence was also undermined by his coziness with those in power, as long as he liked them and was given access, as was the case with John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. Cronkite’s ethical lapses, including conflict of interest on an Olympian scale that involved taking freebies from companies like Pan Am, would be enough to get even the biggest name fired today.

So great is Cronkite’s hold on the imagination of many Americans, it’s not likely that Brinkley’s book will do much to tarnish his reputation. Like Kurtz, many will say his virtues outweighed his faults. Yet this is not the question we should be pondering. Cronkite’s personal standing with the public doesn’t matter anymore. What does matter is the still living myth that mainstream outlets like CBS or the New York Times are the impartial sources of news most unquestioningly believed them to be. It’s not that journalism was once pure but is now sordid; it’s that even the most trusted figures of the past were as crooked in their bias as the worst TV screamers of our own day. As with Cronkite, the real sin is not that his successors are biased, but that they pretend not to be.

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Muslim Brotherhood Wants to End Israel Peace Treaty

A high-ranking member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has come out and said that any new Egyptian government must end the three-decade-old peace treaty with Israel.

As progressives continue to argue that the Muslim Brotherhood is actually an enlightened, liberal political group, it’s important to note statements like these. While the Egyptian Brotherhood has renounced violence for the most part, it’s still a sworn enemy of Israel and would be a poor partner for the U.S. if it gained power in Egypt:

“After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel,” Rashad al-Bayoumi, a deputy leader of the outlawed movement, said on Japan’s NHTV.

The interview contrasted with earlier signals from the group. On Feb. 1, Mahmoud Ezzat, a spokesman for the brothers, told CBS News that his organization “will respect the peace treaty with Israel as long as Israel shows real progress on improving the lot of the Palestinians.”

Of course, the only reason the Brotherhood can make statements like this about Israel is because it probably won’t gain majority power in any sort of coalition government that replaces Mubarak. The group needs to maintain its Islamist street cred, and one of the ways to do this is by coming out strongly against Israel.

But the Brotherhood is also politically savvy and knows that getting rid of the treaty would result in a fight that the country simply can’t handle at the moment. And if the group wins a decent minority block of seats in a new coalition government, then it has the best of both worlds: it can continue the anti-Israel statements without having to deal the political fallout.

A high-ranking member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has come out and said that any new Egyptian government must end the three-decade-old peace treaty with Israel.

As progressives continue to argue that the Muslim Brotherhood is actually an enlightened, liberal political group, it’s important to note statements like these. While the Egyptian Brotherhood has renounced violence for the most part, it’s still a sworn enemy of Israel and would be a poor partner for the U.S. if it gained power in Egypt:

“After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel,” Rashad al-Bayoumi, a deputy leader of the outlawed movement, said on Japan’s NHTV.

The interview contrasted with earlier signals from the group. On Feb. 1, Mahmoud Ezzat, a spokesman for the brothers, told CBS News that his organization “will respect the peace treaty with Israel as long as Israel shows real progress on improving the lot of the Palestinians.”

Of course, the only reason the Brotherhood can make statements like this about Israel is because it probably won’t gain majority power in any sort of coalition government that replaces Mubarak. The group needs to maintain its Islamist street cred, and one of the ways to do this is by coming out strongly against Israel.

But the Brotherhood is also politically savvy and knows that getting rid of the treaty would result in a fight that the country simply can’t handle at the moment. And if the group wins a decent minority block of seats in a new coalition government, then it has the best of both worlds: it can continue the anti-Israel statements without having to deal the political fallout.

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Time for the Fed to Back Off

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke was interviewed by CBS News’s 60 Minutes. Over at e21 (with which I am affiliated), David Malpass does a careful fisking of Bernanke on the issue of the second round of quantitative easing (QE2) — a rather esoteric monetary issue but one that has significant economic ramifications.

In Malpass’s words, “Having the Fed buy bonds in the absence of a crisis is unprecedented and raises many risks — it manipulates markets, creates a bigger overhang when the Fed tries to unload the bonds, risks capital losses at the Fed if interest rates rise, and puts taxpayers and the dollar at risk by shortening the maturity of the outstanding national debt.”

My concern is that given the dismal jobs report on Friday, in which we learned that unemployment increased to 9.8 percent and private-sector job creation was anemic, the Fed will be tempted to get more, not less, aggressive. It shouldn’t, for reasons laid out by Mr. Malpass.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke was interviewed by CBS News’s 60 Minutes. Over at e21 (with which I am affiliated), David Malpass does a careful fisking of Bernanke on the issue of the second round of quantitative easing (QE2) — a rather esoteric monetary issue but one that has significant economic ramifications.

In Malpass’s words, “Having the Fed buy bonds in the absence of a crisis is unprecedented and raises many risks — it manipulates markets, creates a bigger overhang when the Fed tries to unload the bonds, risks capital losses at the Fed if interest rates rise, and puts taxpayers and the dollar at risk by shortening the maturity of the outstanding national debt.”

My concern is that given the dismal jobs report on Friday, in which we learned that unemployment increased to 9.8 percent and private-sector job creation was anemic, the Fed will be tempted to get more, not less, aggressive. It shouldn’t, for reasons laid out by Mr. Malpass.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So Abbas is threatening to quit – again? It’s unclear, however, whether he will keep his promise if the talks fail because of his own walkout.

So the courts can mind their own business (and leave it to the democratic process)? “Forty-two percent of respondents said they favor same-sex marriage, up 5 percentage points from 2009 and the highest number registered since Pew began asking the question in 1996. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed opposed same-sex marriage, 6 percentage points lower than in 2009 and the lowest total measure by Pew.”

So the national parties are irrelevant? “When comparing the RNC to the Democratic National Committee, the 93 GOP Insiders who responded to the poll this week were withering in their assessment and 73% said that the DNC was out-performing the RNC. Only 15% said that the RNC was besting the DNC and 12% said neither committee had stood out.” Maybe, but Michael Steele is still going to get fired after the midterms.

So another Democrat with a shaky record on Israel is in danger? Rep. Jim Himes is in a statistical tie with his GOP challenger in the CT-4.

So the swamp is still full? “Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts. … The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll finds that 57 percent of likely voters in 12 competitive districts believe that the ethical situation on Capitol Hill has deteriorated since President Obama took office.”

So now liberals are reduced to hunting for silver linings in expectation of a drubbing? “It would raise the profile of the party’s legislative leadership, particularly would-be Speaker John Boehner and would-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I don’t have specific polling information on either man’s popularity. [So why is he writing on this?] But I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that neither man is a great party spokesman.” OK, it’s a rationalization in progress. I feel comfortable suggesting they’ll come up with better ones than that.

So maybe he shouldn’t have voted with them on ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the stimulus bill? “The combination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama is casting a colossal shadow over Democrat John Spratt’s reelection campaign, and the 28-year House veteran all but acknowledges that, as a result, he is facing the toughest election test of his career.”

So a 38 percent approval in a poll of random adults (not even registered voters) is like 20 percent among likely voters? “The public is divided on the overall job he is doing now: 44 percent say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove in a new CBS News poll — virtually unchanged from last month. The president’s rating on the economy, however, has taken a further plunge in the poll. Now, only 38 percent say they approve of the job he is doing handling the issue – which has been the problem weighing most heavily on the nation’s collective mind for months. Half of those questioned (50 percent) say they disapprove of his work on the economy.”

So Abbas is threatening to quit – again? It’s unclear, however, whether he will keep his promise if the talks fail because of his own walkout.

So the courts can mind their own business (and leave it to the democratic process)? “Forty-two percent of respondents said they favor same-sex marriage, up 5 percentage points from 2009 and the highest number registered since Pew began asking the question in 1996. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed opposed same-sex marriage, 6 percentage points lower than in 2009 and the lowest total measure by Pew.”

So the national parties are irrelevant? “When comparing the RNC to the Democratic National Committee, the 93 GOP Insiders who responded to the poll this week were withering in their assessment and 73% said that the DNC was out-performing the RNC. Only 15% said that the RNC was besting the DNC and 12% said neither committee had stood out.” Maybe, but Michael Steele is still going to get fired after the midterms.

So another Democrat with a shaky record on Israel is in danger? Rep. Jim Himes is in a statistical tie with his GOP challenger in the CT-4.

So the swamp is still full? “Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts. … The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll finds that 57 percent of likely voters in 12 competitive districts believe that the ethical situation on Capitol Hill has deteriorated since President Obama took office.”

So now liberals are reduced to hunting for silver linings in expectation of a drubbing? “It would raise the profile of the party’s legislative leadership, particularly would-be Speaker John Boehner and would-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I don’t have specific polling information on either man’s popularity. [So why is he writing on this?] But I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that neither man is a great party spokesman.” OK, it’s a rationalization in progress. I feel comfortable suggesting they’ll come up with better ones than that.

So maybe he shouldn’t have voted with them on ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the stimulus bill? “The combination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama is casting a colossal shadow over Democrat John Spratt’s reelection campaign, and the 28-year House veteran all but acknowledges that, as a result, he is facing the toughest election test of his career.”

So a 38 percent approval in a poll of random adults (not even registered voters) is like 20 percent among likely voters? “The public is divided on the overall job he is doing now: 44 percent say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove in a new CBS News poll — virtually unchanged from last month. The president’s rating on the economy, however, has taken a further plunge in the poll. Now, only 38 percent say they approve of the job he is doing handling the issue – which has been the problem weighing most heavily on the nation’s collective mind for months. Half of those questioned (50 percent) say they disapprove of his work on the economy.”

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Gray Lady to Obama: You Sound Like George Bush on a Bad Day

We get a brutal assessment of Obama’s performance from none other than the New York Times, which tells its doubtlessly shell-shocked liberal readers that all those “wins” in Congress are really losses. (“While he may be winning on Capitol Hill, he is losing with voters at a time of economic distress, and soon may be forced to scale back his ambitions.”) Here’s a low blow:

You know, sometimes these pundits, they can’t figure me out,” the president said last week, campaigning in Kansas City, Mo., for the Democratic Senate candidate there. “They say, ‘Well, why is he doing that?’ That doesn’t poll well. Well, I’ve got my own pollsters, I know it doesn’t poll well. But it’s the right thing to do for America.”

It is an argument that sounds eerily similar to the one Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, made to justify an unpopular war in Iraq as he watched his own poll numbers sink lower. Mr. Bush and his aides often felt they could not catch a break; when the economy was humming along — or at least seemed to be humming along — the Bush White House never got credit for it, because the public was so upset about the war.

The difference, however, is that Bush turned around the war. Obama has failed to do so on the economy and  is now paying the price for his liberal joyride:

Just 40 percent of Americans now approve of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, the CBS News poll found. More than half said he was spending too little time on the economy. In one of the most striking findings, nearly two-thirds said the president’s economic policies had no effect on them personally — just 13 percent said they had helped them.

“Voters don’t have a checklist that they tick off, of what an elected official promised and then delivered,” said Charlie Cook, the editor of The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter that tracks Congressional races. “They were enormously frustrated last year by the fixation on health care when they wanted a focus on the economy, with Democrats losing the messaging fight on whether what they did was right and effective or not.”

Funny how the Times is just now figuring all this out. But at least the Gray Lady has, which is more than you can say for the Obami.

We get a brutal assessment of Obama’s performance from none other than the New York Times, which tells its doubtlessly shell-shocked liberal readers that all those “wins” in Congress are really losses. (“While he may be winning on Capitol Hill, he is losing with voters at a time of economic distress, and soon may be forced to scale back his ambitions.”) Here’s a low blow:

You know, sometimes these pundits, they can’t figure me out,” the president said last week, campaigning in Kansas City, Mo., for the Democratic Senate candidate there. “They say, ‘Well, why is he doing that?’ That doesn’t poll well. Well, I’ve got my own pollsters, I know it doesn’t poll well. But it’s the right thing to do for America.”

It is an argument that sounds eerily similar to the one Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, made to justify an unpopular war in Iraq as he watched his own poll numbers sink lower. Mr. Bush and his aides often felt they could not catch a break; when the economy was humming along — or at least seemed to be humming along — the Bush White House never got credit for it, because the public was so upset about the war.

The difference, however, is that Bush turned around the war. Obama has failed to do so on the economy and  is now paying the price for his liberal joyride:

Just 40 percent of Americans now approve of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, the CBS News poll found. More than half said he was spending too little time on the economy. In one of the most striking findings, nearly two-thirds said the president’s economic policies had no effect on them personally — just 13 percent said they had helped them.

“Voters don’t have a checklist that they tick off, of what an elected official promised and then delivered,” said Charlie Cook, the editor of The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter that tracks Congressional races. “They were enormously frustrated last year by the fixation on health care when they wanted a focus on the economy, with Democrats losing the messaging fight on whether what they did was right and effective or not.”

Funny how the Times is just now figuring all this out. But at least the Gray Lady has, which is more than you can say for the Obami.

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We Don’t Need Clint Eastwood

It’s now come to this.

In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, President Obama said this:

I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose a** to kick.

This burst of a**-kicking anger comes after the White House leaked to the media that:

To those tasked with keeping the president apprised of the disaster, Obama’s clenched jaw is becoming an increasingly familiar sight. During one of those sessions in the Oval Office the first week after the spill, a president who rarely vents his frustration cut his aides short, according to one who was there.

“Plug the damn hole,” Obama told them.

And this, in turn, came after Senior White House aide David Axelrod told Bloomberg that the president’s outrage over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached “the upper scale” and is directed at both BP and federal regulators:

“His anger and frustration about those things, and his anger and frustration about any attempt to obfuscate the amount of damage that’s been done by the company is great,” Axelrod said in an interview. … Axelrod said the president’s outrage was “pretty great” when he learned of some of the “shortcomings” at the Minerals Management Service and its “coziness” with an industry it’s supposed to regulate. The president’s chief political adviser declined to quote Obama’s words, saying: “Knowing that Bloomberg is a family news service, I can’t share with you what he said.”

Just in case any of this has been lost on us, Robert Gibbs insisted that his boss was “enraged” at BP. CBS News’s Chip Reid asked Gibbs: “Have we really seen rage from the president on this? I think most people would say no.”

“I’ve seen rage from him, Chip,” Gibbs said. “I have.”

Message: I’m angry. I’m really, really anger. In fact, I’m “plug-the-damn-hole-and-whose-damn-a**-can-I-kick” angry.

This is what an impotent and increasingly desperate White House does when it has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. It hopes that the public will grade Obama on his emotions rather than his managerial skills. But it won’t work. Having blasted the previous administration over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and having insisted weeks ago that the federal government is firmly in control of this ecological catastrophe, the president will be judged – fairly or not – on the outcome of the oil spill. He owns it.

It is a characteristic of modern liberalism to want to be judged on feelings and intentions rather than on results and outcomes, on subjective emotions rather than on objective achievements. But many people will react to this PR offensive by wondering just how important Barack Obama’s emotional thermostat is in light of this unprecedented environmental disaster. Maureen Dowd may rank it high, but I’m not sure too many others do.

In attempting to create an image of America’s enraged commander in chief, the White House is jettisoning what was supposed to be one of the president’s impressive attributes: his calm demeanor, his detachment, his first-rate temperament. They are trying to remake Barack Obama to fit this moment. But it comes across to me, and I suspect to others, as somewhat forced, contrived, and inauthentic. It is a sign of a president who is thrashing about, frustrated he cannot extricate himself from an event that he cannot control and that is doing untold damage to him.

In the midst of this childish spin game, a person with standing in Obama’s life might whisper to him: “Mr. President, we already have one Clinton Eastwood. We don’t need you play-acting like you’re another.”

It’s now come to this.

In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, President Obama said this:

I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose a** to kick.

This burst of a**-kicking anger comes after the White House leaked to the media that:

To those tasked with keeping the president apprised of the disaster, Obama’s clenched jaw is becoming an increasingly familiar sight. During one of those sessions in the Oval Office the first week after the spill, a president who rarely vents his frustration cut his aides short, according to one who was there.

“Plug the damn hole,” Obama told them.

And this, in turn, came after Senior White House aide David Axelrod told Bloomberg that the president’s outrage over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has reached “the upper scale” and is directed at both BP and federal regulators:

“His anger and frustration about those things, and his anger and frustration about any attempt to obfuscate the amount of damage that’s been done by the company is great,” Axelrod said in an interview. … Axelrod said the president’s outrage was “pretty great” when he learned of some of the “shortcomings” at the Minerals Management Service and its “coziness” with an industry it’s supposed to regulate. The president’s chief political adviser declined to quote Obama’s words, saying: “Knowing that Bloomberg is a family news service, I can’t share with you what he said.”

Just in case any of this has been lost on us, Robert Gibbs insisted that his boss was “enraged” at BP. CBS News’s Chip Reid asked Gibbs: “Have we really seen rage from the president on this? I think most people would say no.”

“I’ve seen rage from him, Chip,” Gibbs said. “I have.”

Message: I’m angry. I’m really, really anger. In fact, I’m “plug-the-damn-hole-and-whose-damn-a**-can-I-kick” angry.

This is what an impotent and increasingly desperate White House does when it has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. It hopes that the public will grade Obama on his emotions rather than his managerial skills. But it won’t work. Having blasted the previous administration over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and having insisted weeks ago that the federal government is firmly in control of this ecological catastrophe, the president will be judged – fairly or not – on the outcome of the oil spill. He owns it.

It is a characteristic of modern liberalism to want to be judged on feelings and intentions rather than on results and outcomes, on subjective emotions rather than on objective achievements. But many people will react to this PR offensive by wondering just how important Barack Obama’s emotional thermostat is in light of this unprecedented environmental disaster. Maureen Dowd may rank it high, but I’m not sure too many others do.

In attempting to create an image of America’s enraged commander in chief, the White House is jettisoning what was supposed to be one of the president’s impressive attributes: his calm demeanor, his detachment, his first-rate temperament. They are trying to remake Barack Obama to fit this moment. But it comes across to me, and I suspect to others, as somewhat forced, contrived, and inauthentic. It is a sign of a president who is thrashing about, frustrated he cannot extricate himself from an event that he cannot control and that is doing untold damage to him.

In the midst of this childish spin game, a person with standing in Obama’s life might whisper to him: “Mr. President, we already have one Clinton Eastwood. We don’t need you play-acting like you’re another.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gov. Bob McDonnell better get some decent staff. First, he leaves slavery out of a Confederate History Month proclamation, and then he hires Fred Malek without knowing that “in 1971 [he] compiled a list of Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the president’s request, an action that has been the subject of numerous articles and for which Malek has repeatedly apologized” or that Malek “recently paid a $100,000 civil fine related to his firm’s work with Connecticut’s pension fund.” Unforced errors will kill you in baseball and in politics.

Elena Kagan better reveal more about her judicial philosophy or a bunch of senators are going to oppose her nomination. After all, “senators, interest groups and the media [are trying] to piece together a portrait of the solicitor general’s views from scraps of speeches, scholarly articles and actions as a member of two Democratic administrations. Because Kagan, 50, has never been a judge and has not published a major work since 2001, her record lacks the ‘paper trail’ that other nominees in recent years have had. But it also seems at times contradictory, or at least ambiguous.”

Obama better be willing to send more than 1,200 National Guard troops to secure the border. Not even CBS News thinks it’s enough. “Some law enforcement officials along the border said they worry that Mr. Obama will repeat Bush’s mistake by limiting the troops to support roles, such as conducting surveillance and installing lighting, rather than letting them make arrests and confront smugglers. They also believe the scale of the force — one-fifth of the size of the one sent by Bush — is too small to make a difference along the length of the 2,000-mile border.”  I’m not in favor of the Arizona immigration law, but it sure did get Obama’s attention.

Obama better pay attention to this poll: “Forty-five percent disapprove of the Obama administration’s handling of the spill while 35 percent approve.” And that’s the New York Times survey.

Obama better hope Democratic senators don’t pay attention to the polls: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 41% of U.S. voters now hold a favorable opinion of Kagan but 47% view her unfavorably, up from 43% a week ago and 39% just after President Obama announced her nomination. … With Senate hearings on Kagan’s nomination set to begin June 28, 36% of voters now favor her confirmation, but 39% are opposed. One-out-of-four (25%) are undecided.” For Democrats wanting to show their independence from Obama, why not vote no?

You better keep an eye on Chris Christie: “Governor Christie on Tuesday told a borough teacher to find another job if she did not feel she was compensated enough as he defended his state budget cuts and promoted a plan to cap annual growth in property tax collections. … ‘Your union said that is the greatest assault on public education in the history of the state,’ Christie said. ‘That’s why the union has no credibility, stupid statements like that.'” He keeps that up and they’ll be a “Draft Christie” movement in 2012.

Obama better knock off the self-pity — Americans don’t like whiners: Daniel Halper on Obama’s comment that this is the hardest year and a half of any president: “It shows his self-absorption and utter lack of a sense of history. … Obama’s whining is puerile. One does hope it’s been the toughest year and a half he’s ever had. He is the president, and it’s a job that requires a bit of work. But to treat the previous presidents with so little respect is unbecoming.” And this was the candidate with a “superior temperament.”

The Democrats better lock away Joe Biden and Richard Blumenthal: “Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday took an unexpected dig at Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal for misstating his military service record. … ‘I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here,’ he said according to a pool report. ‘Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.'” I don’t necessarily see Obama sticking with Biden in 2012, do you?

Gov. Bob McDonnell better get some decent staff. First, he leaves slavery out of a Confederate History Month proclamation, and then he hires Fred Malek without knowing that “in 1971 [he] compiled a list of Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the president’s request, an action that has been the subject of numerous articles and for which Malek has repeatedly apologized” or that Malek “recently paid a $100,000 civil fine related to his firm’s work with Connecticut’s pension fund.” Unforced errors will kill you in baseball and in politics.

Elena Kagan better reveal more about her judicial philosophy or a bunch of senators are going to oppose her nomination. After all, “senators, interest groups and the media [are trying] to piece together a portrait of the solicitor general’s views from scraps of speeches, scholarly articles and actions as a member of two Democratic administrations. Because Kagan, 50, has never been a judge and has not published a major work since 2001, her record lacks the ‘paper trail’ that other nominees in recent years have had. But it also seems at times contradictory, or at least ambiguous.”

Obama better be willing to send more than 1,200 National Guard troops to secure the border. Not even CBS News thinks it’s enough. “Some law enforcement officials along the border said they worry that Mr. Obama will repeat Bush’s mistake by limiting the troops to support roles, such as conducting surveillance and installing lighting, rather than letting them make arrests and confront smugglers. They also believe the scale of the force — one-fifth of the size of the one sent by Bush — is too small to make a difference along the length of the 2,000-mile border.”  I’m not in favor of the Arizona immigration law, but it sure did get Obama’s attention.

Obama better pay attention to this poll: “Forty-five percent disapprove of the Obama administration’s handling of the spill while 35 percent approve.” And that’s the New York Times survey.

Obama better hope Democratic senators don’t pay attention to the polls: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 41% of U.S. voters now hold a favorable opinion of Kagan but 47% view her unfavorably, up from 43% a week ago and 39% just after President Obama announced her nomination. … With Senate hearings on Kagan’s nomination set to begin June 28, 36% of voters now favor her confirmation, but 39% are opposed. One-out-of-four (25%) are undecided.” For Democrats wanting to show their independence from Obama, why not vote no?

You better keep an eye on Chris Christie: “Governor Christie on Tuesday told a borough teacher to find another job if she did not feel she was compensated enough as he defended his state budget cuts and promoted a plan to cap annual growth in property tax collections. … ‘Your union said that is the greatest assault on public education in the history of the state,’ Christie said. ‘That’s why the union has no credibility, stupid statements like that.'” He keeps that up and they’ll be a “Draft Christie” movement in 2012.

Obama better knock off the self-pity — Americans don’t like whiners: Daniel Halper on Obama’s comment that this is the hardest year and a half of any president: “It shows his self-absorption and utter lack of a sense of history. … Obama’s whining is puerile. One does hope it’s been the toughest year and a half he’s ever had. He is the president, and it’s a job that requires a bit of work. But to treat the previous presidents with so little respect is unbecoming.” And this was the candidate with a “superior temperament.”

The Democrats better lock away Joe Biden and Richard Blumenthal: “Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday took an unexpected dig at Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal for misstating his military service record. … ‘I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here,’ he said according to a pool report. ‘Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.'” I don’t necessarily see Obama sticking with Biden in 2012, do you?

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How Badly Is Obama Hurting His Party?

Very badly. In a poll that usually leans in favor of Democrats, CBS News finds:

Americans are dissatisfied with both major political parties, but the public’s approval of the Democratic Party is at its lowest level ever, a new CBS News poll shows. Favorable views of the Democratic Party dropped 20 points in the past year to 37 percent, according to the poll, conducted May 20 – 24. Last month, the party’s favorability rating stood at 42 percent. Fifty-four percent of Americans have a negative view of the Democrats, the poll shows. Republicans have a similarly low favorability rating at 33 percent. That figure, however, is up from 28 percent – the historic low the party received last June. Fifty-five percent of Americans have a negative view of the Republican Party.

There is really only one explanation for the opposite trends for the two parties: Obama and his agenda have become politically toxic. It is a remarkable turnaround that the presidential candidate who helped drag many a Democrat into Congress is now undermining the party’s success. It reminds us that “permanent” anything in politics is a misnomer.

Very badly. In a poll that usually leans in favor of Democrats, CBS News finds:

Americans are dissatisfied with both major political parties, but the public’s approval of the Democratic Party is at its lowest level ever, a new CBS News poll shows. Favorable views of the Democratic Party dropped 20 points in the past year to 37 percent, according to the poll, conducted May 20 – 24. Last month, the party’s favorability rating stood at 42 percent. Fifty-four percent of Americans have a negative view of the Democrats, the poll shows. Republicans have a similarly low favorability rating at 33 percent. That figure, however, is up from 28 percent – the historic low the party received last June. Fifty-five percent of Americans have a negative view of the Republican Party.

There is really only one explanation for the opposite trends for the two parties: Obama and his agenda have become politically toxic. It is a remarkable turnaround that the presidential candidate who helped drag many a Democrat into Congress is now undermining the party’s success. It reminds us that “permanent” anything in politics is a misnomer.

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Specter Loss Anticipated by White House

Via Taegan Goddard we get these snippets predicting doom for Arlen Specter:

We noted earlier that President Obama declined over the weekend to make a last minute campaign appearance for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in his tough primary fight against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

In an interview with WKYW-TV, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer said, “I have been told on background that the White House is preparing for a Specter loss here, and that the president doesn’t want to be associated with that.”

Greg Sargent: “I’ve also learned that Veep Joe Biden will not be doing any campaign events for Specter in the final stretch, though it’s not immediately clear how significant this is. Last week Biden said he’d be doing events for Specter ‘as needed.'”

But of course Obama can’t help but be associated with a Specter defeat. It’s a direct reflection on him — his ill-conceived gambit to lure Specter to switch parties (rather than remain a permanent source of trouble for the Republicans) — and on the anti-Washington sentiment he and his Democratic allies in Congress have spawned. If Specter goes down to defeat, one can imagine that there will be many Democratic incumbents anxious to distance themselves from Obama. But having rubber-stamped his ultra-liberal and ultra-unpopular agenda, they may find there is no place to hide. And in all those races, Obama isn’t going to be able to avoid being “associated” with defeats for his party.

Via Taegan Goddard we get these snippets predicting doom for Arlen Specter:

We noted earlier that President Obama declined over the weekend to make a last minute campaign appearance for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in his tough primary fight against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

In an interview with WKYW-TV, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer said, “I have been told on background that the White House is preparing for a Specter loss here, and that the president doesn’t want to be associated with that.”

Greg Sargent: “I’ve also learned that Veep Joe Biden will not be doing any campaign events for Specter in the final stretch, though it’s not immediately clear how significant this is. Last week Biden said he’d be doing events for Specter ‘as needed.'”

But of course Obama can’t help but be associated with a Specter defeat. It’s a direct reflection on him — his ill-conceived gambit to lure Specter to switch parties (rather than remain a permanent source of trouble for the Republicans) — and on the anti-Washington sentiment he and his Democratic allies in Congress have spawned. If Specter goes down to defeat, one can imagine that there will be many Democratic incumbents anxious to distance themselves from Obama. But having rubber-stamped his ultra-liberal and ultra-unpopular agenda, they may find there is no place to hide. And in all those races, Obama isn’t going to be able to avoid being “associated” with defeats for his party.

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Obama the Crybaby

Barack Obama is quite a piece of work.

On Friday, in speaking about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the president said this:

You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn’t.

I understand that there are legal and financial issues involved, and a full investigation will tell us exactly what happened. But it is pretty clear that the system failed, and it failed badly. And for that, there is enough responsibility to go around. And all parties should be willing to accept it.

That includes, by the way, the federal government. For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymore. To borrow an old phrase, we will trust but we will verify.

Now isn’t that rich? Here we have the most compulsive finger-pointing, blame-shifting, I’m-not-responsible-for-anything-that’s-happening-on-my-watch president imaginable lecturing others about finger-pointing. He’s like an alcoholic who sermonizes to his college-age son for drinking a Bud Light. The man who seemingly cannot go more than five minutes without blaming someone, somewhere, for the problems he faces is now insisting on personal accountability from others.

It gets better, though. Mr. Obama, in saying that the federal government has some responsibility for what went wrong, reverts to his habit by blaming — you guessed it — the prior administration while praising his own. This was too much even for Chip Reid of CBS News, who points out:

“A decade or more” clearly encompasses the Bush Administration, and may include the Clinton years too. But Mr. Obama’s been president for nearly 16 months. Does he get at least a little piece of the blame? Not a bit, he made clear. He portrayed his administration as valiantly fighting the good fight against the oil companies from day one.

Ah, yes, how fortunate we all are to have on our side Barack the Valiant, intrepid fighter of all things evil, at once omnicompetent and all-wise, forever put upon because he must clean up the mistakes of others.

It is all rather childish, this delusional game our president plays. Mr. Obama’s manifest public failures are increasingly having to make room for his private ones. He is a whiner and a crybaby. And he should, for his own sake, cease and desist.

Barack Obama is quite a piece of work.

On Friday, in speaking about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the president said this:

You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn’t.

I understand that there are legal and financial issues involved, and a full investigation will tell us exactly what happened. But it is pretty clear that the system failed, and it failed badly. And for that, there is enough responsibility to go around. And all parties should be willing to accept it.

That includes, by the way, the federal government. For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymore. To borrow an old phrase, we will trust but we will verify.

Now isn’t that rich? Here we have the most compulsive finger-pointing, blame-shifting, I’m-not-responsible-for-anything-that’s-happening-on-my-watch president imaginable lecturing others about finger-pointing. He’s like an alcoholic who sermonizes to his college-age son for drinking a Bud Light. The man who seemingly cannot go more than five minutes without blaming someone, somewhere, for the problems he faces is now insisting on personal accountability from others.

It gets better, though. Mr. Obama, in saying that the federal government has some responsibility for what went wrong, reverts to his habit by blaming — you guessed it — the prior administration while praising his own. This was too much even for Chip Reid of CBS News, who points out:

“A decade or more” clearly encompasses the Bush Administration, and may include the Clinton years too. But Mr. Obama’s been president for nearly 16 months. Does he get at least a little piece of the blame? Not a bit, he made clear. He portrayed his administration as valiantly fighting the good fight against the oil companies from day one.

Ah, yes, how fortunate we all are to have on our side Barack the Valiant, intrepid fighter of all things evil, at once omnicompetent and all-wise, forever put upon because he must clean up the mistakes of others.

It is all rather childish, this delusional game our president plays. Mr. Obama’s manifest public failures are increasingly having to make room for his private ones. He is a whiner and a crybaby. And he should, for his own sake, cease and desist.

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Let’s Play Catch-Up

The Obama administration has done . . . something:

A White House official told CBS News that airlines will now have to check the list within two hours of notification of an update with special circumstances, such as happened on Monday. Previously, airlines only were required to check within 24 hours.

This is evidence of small, reactive, and inadequate thinking.  For each exploited hole in the Homeland Security system, we add a new defensive complication that forces the next would-be terrorist to exploit a different hole. Faisal Shahzad managed to purchase a plane ticket and get on board an international flight hours after allegedly attempting to set off a bomb in Times Square. In order to prevent that from ever happening again, we’ve just urged future bombers to buy getaway tickets to flights that leave closer to the times of planned detonations and to buy those tickets in advance of the same.

On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight with explosives-rigged underwear. Three months later, Homeland Security began installing full-body scanners in some American airports. Playing catch-up can be as undignified as it is ineffective.

The Bush administration was guilty of the same approach. After Richard Reid attempted to ignite his shoe explosive on an American Airlines flight in late 2001, Homeland Security responded by adding a shoe-removal step to pre-boarding protocol. Is there any doubt that if the fuse was lodged in his sock we’d now all have to remove every layer of footwear to get on our flights?

In 2006, a group of British men were caught planning to bring down at least seven trans-Atlantic flights using liquid explosives. Thus, the pre-boarding liquid-dumping ritual was born.

This dam has more gum-filled cracks than it can bear. We’re giving terrorists a fantastic blueprint for crippling our day-to-day pursuits. They don’t need to succeed in their attempts to maim and horrify. Each of their failures sets our bureaucracy in motion and leaves us with another burdensome faux-defense. The day after Faisal Shahzad failed allegedly to blow up his SUV, a cable news analyst wondered aloud if it was feasible to allow cars through midtown Manhattan anymore. It can’t be long before some unimaginative lawmaker has the same thought. And after the next Faisal Shahzad?  And the next? Why, automobile bans in ever-larger concentric circles, naturally. And then, what to do about bicycle bombs, and so on?

After it was discovered that the Nigerian underwear bomber was long known to intelligence agencies, President Obama spoke about the “systemic failure” of the way we protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm. Yet, he’s still tinkering in the margins of that failure instead of summoning the will and imagination to qualitatively reform the way we do things. Any real systemic change means, for starters, rigorous profiling. Considering that this administration is loath to profile terrorists even after their attempted attacks, we’re a long way off.

The Obama administration has done . . . something:

A White House official told CBS News that airlines will now have to check the list within two hours of notification of an update with special circumstances, such as happened on Monday. Previously, airlines only were required to check within 24 hours.

This is evidence of small, reactive, and inadequate thinking.  For each exploited hole in the Homeland Security system, we add a new defensive complication that forces the next would-be terrorist to exploit a different hole. Faisal Shahzad managed to purchase a plane ticket and get on board an international flight hours after allegedly attempting to set off a bomb in Times Square. In order to prevent that from ever happening again, we’ve just urged future bombers to buy getaway tickets to flights that leave closer to the times of planned detonations and to buy those tickets in advance of the same.

On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight with explosives-rigged underwear. Three months later, Homeland Security began installing full-body scanners in some American airports. Playing catch-up can be as undignified as it is ineffective.

The Bush administration was guilty of the same approach. After Richard Reid attempted to ignite his shoe explosive on an American Airlines flight in late 2001, Homeland Security responded by adding a shoe-removal step to pre-boarding protocol. Is there any doubt that if the fuse was lodged in his sock we’d now all have to remove every layer of footwear to get on our flights?

In 2006, a group of British men were caught planning to bring down at least seven trans-Atlantic flights using liquid explosives. Thus, the pre-boarding liquid-dumping ritual was born.

This dam has more gum-filled cracks than it can bear. We’re giving terrorists a fantastic blueprint for crippling our day-to-day pursuits. They don’t need to succeed in their attempts to maim and horrify. Each of their failures sets our bureaucracy in motion and leaves us with another burdensome faux-defense. The day after Faisal Shahzad failed allegedly to blow up his SUV, a cable news analyst wondered aloud if it was feasible to allow cars through midtown Manhattan anymore. It can’t be long before some unimaginative lawmaker has the same thought. And after the next Faisal Shahzad?  And the next? Why, automobile bans in ever-larger concentric circles, naturally. And then, what to do about bicycle bombs, and so on?

After it was discovered that the Nigerian underwear bomber was long known to intelligence agencies, President Obama spoke about the “systemic failure” of the way we protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm. Yet, he’s still tinkering in the margins of that failure instead of summoning the will and imagination to qualitatively reform the way we do things. Any real systemic change means, for starters, rigorous profiling. Considering that this administration is loath to profile terrorists even after their attempted attacks, we’re a long way off.

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Will Pelosi and Reid Go Down with the Ship?

In a CBS News poll taken just before the House vote on health care, Nancy Pelosi received an 11 percent approval rating, Harry Reid got 8 percent, and Congress overall got thumbs up from 14 percent of respondents. It’s hard to poll that poorly, but they did. A certain rallying of the base may have occurred after the passage of ObamaCare, but even if those approval numbers doubled, they would still be rotten.

The president told members of Congress that they had to pass health care to save themselves, but it’s not clear he really meant it. As the vote drew near, it was necessary, he acknowledged, to pass the bill to save himself, but the hole dug by congressmen and senators defying the will of the public is very deep. The liberal base, even if rallied, isn’t big enough to stave off the torrent of enraged conservatives and annoyed independents.

The first verdict on ObamaCare in November is likely to be negative — the only question is how severe the rebuke and whether Pelosi and Reid will lose their perches (her speakership, his seat) as a fitting coda to their demand that so many colleagues sacrifice themselves.

In a CBS News poll taken just before the House vote on health care, Nancy Pelosi received an 11 percent approval rating, Harry Reid got 8 percent, and Congress overall got thumbs up from 14 percent of respondents. It’s hard to poll that poorly, but they did. A certain rallying of the base may have occurred after the passage of ObamaCare, but even if those approval numbers doubled, they would still be rotten.

The president told members of Congress that they had to pass health care to save themselves, but it’s not clear he really meant it. As the vote drew near, it was necessary, he acknowledged, to pass the bill to save himself, but the hole dug by congressmen and senators defying the will of the public is very deep. The liberal base, even if rallied, isn’t big enough to stave off the torrent of enraged conservatives and annoyed independents.

The first verdict on ObamaCare in November is likely to be negative — the only question is how severe the rebuke and whether Pelosi and Reid will lose their perches (her speakership, his seat) as a fitting coda to their demand that so many colleagues sacrifice themselves.

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Liberal Legal Pundit Behaving Badly?

It’s not quite John Edwards territory, but it’s close. The New York Daily News (h/t Glenn Reynolds) reports:

One of the media elite’s most whispered-about scandals went public Wednesday when married CNN correspondent Jeffrey Toobin squared off with a woman who says he’s the father of her baby. Yale-educated lawyer Casey Greenfield — the daughter of eminent CBS News analyst Jeff Greenfield — had a chilly faceoff with Toobin in Manhattan Family Court. … Toobin, who glumly sat several rows away from Casey Greenfield before the hearing, is said to have privately admitted to fathering the child, believed to have been born last summer, sources said. A friend of Greenfield’s said the outspoken Toobin has resisted putting his name on the infant’s birth certificate and hasn’t given his former lover the child support she’s requested.

(Toobin is married to his “college sweetheart,” we are told, and has two teenage daughters.) Well this is a little embarrassing for someone who opines on others’ legal obligations.

And then there is the deliciously revealing suggestion (“One of  the media elite’s most whispered-about scandals”) that the media, again, were not reporting a sex scandal that the media would rather not report on. Is this a protect-their-own racket or just the run-of-the-mill “give liberals a break” rule? Hard to say. I’m sure the Gray Lady’s Clark Hoyt and the rest of the mainstream media ombudspeople will get on it right away. Because, after all, they have no problem reporting on Republican sex scandals, no matter how sketchy the sourcing.

It’s not quite John Edwards territory, but it’s close. The New York Daily News (h/t Glenn Reynolds) reports:

One of the media elite’s most whispered-about scandals went public Wednesday when married CNN correspondent Jeffrey Toobin squared off with a woman who says he’s the father of her baby. Yale-educated lawyer Casey Greenfield — the daughter of eminent CBS News analyst Jeff Greenfield — had a chilly faceoff with Toobin in Manhattan Family Court. … Toobin, who glumly sat several rows away from Casey Greenfield before the hearing, is said to have privately admitted to fathering the child, believed to have been born last summer, sources said. A friend of Greenfield’s said the outspoken Toobin has resisted putting his name on the infant’s birth certificate and hasn’t given his former lover the child support she’s requested.

(Toobin is married to his “college sweetheart,” we are told, and has two teenage daughters.) Well this is a little embarrassing for someone who opines on others’ legal obligations.

And then there is the deliciously revealing suggestion (“One of  the media elite’s most whispered-about scandals”) that the media, again, were not reporting a sex scandal that the media would rather not report on. Is this a protect-their-own racket or just the run-of-the-mill “give liberals a break” rule? Hard to say. I’m sure the Gray Lady’s Clark Hoyt and the rest of the mainstream media ombudspeople will get on it right away. Because, after all, they have no problem reporting on Republican sex scandals, no matter how sketchy the sourcing.

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Public Trusts Fox, Not So Much the White House

The Democratic polling outfit Public Policy Polling reveals:

Americans do not trust the major tv news operations in the country- except for Fox News. Our newest survey looking at perceptions of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News finds Fox as the only one that more people say they trust than distrust. 49% say they trust it to 37% who do not. CNN does next best at a 39/41 spread, followed by NBC at 35/44, CBS at 32/46, and ABC at 31/46.

This will certainly be unwelcome news to the White House, but it is also further evidence that the Obama administration may have the ability to lift its enemies to new heights of popularity. Perhaps all that vilification from the White House demonstrated that Fox wasn’t the patsy of the administration. Or maybe viewers can judge for themselves — and have long since tuned out the advice of the White House on everything from health care to which news outlet they should watch.

It is certainly one more bit of evidence that the White House is out of touch with the public and that its spin has ceased to move public opinion (at least in the intended direction). It is also a lesson to the mainstream media: sycophantic coverage doesn’t play well with public.

The Democratic polling outfit Public Policy Polling reveals:

Americans do not trust the major tv news operations in the country- except for Fox News. Our newest survey looking at perceptions of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News finds Fox as the only one that more people say they trust than distrust. 49% say they trust it to 37% who do not. CNN does next best at a 39/41 spread, followed by NBC at 35/44, CBS at 32/46, and ABC at 31/46.

This will certainly be unwelcome news to the White House, but it is also further evidence that the Obama administration may have the ability to lift its enemies to new heights of popularity. Perhaps all that vilification from the White House demonstrated that Fox wasn’t the patsy of the administration. Or maybe viewers can judge for themselves — and have long since tuned out the advice of the White House on everything from health care to which news outlet they should watch.

It is certainly one more bit of evidence that the White House is out of touch with the public and that its spin has ceased to move public opinion (at least in the intended direction). It is also a lesson to the mainstream media: sycophantic coverage doesn’t play well with public.

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RE: Time to Clean House

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS’s Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS’s Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

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Obama’s Polling Blues

The raft of bad polling data continues for President Obama. When voters were asked in a CNN/Opinion Research survey published on Tuesday to rate Obama’s performance since taking office, 48 percent judged it a failure while 47 percent saw a success. This corresponds with a new Quinnipiac University poll released today, showing voters split 45-45 on whether Obama’s first year was a success or failure. Earlier this week, a CBS News poll showed Obama’s job approval rating at 46 percent, marking the first time he had polled below 50 percent in that survey. The CBS poll also showed that Obama’s support among independent voters has fallen 10 points in the last few months alone.

Today’s Gallup poll has Obama’s approval rating on the economy – far and away the most important issue for the country – at an anemic 40 percent. His approval rating on health care – the issue he has devoted most of his presidency to – is at 37 percent. These numbers are the lowest of his presidency. In addition, Obama has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the January after the first year in office. And as Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies points out, since Gallup first started measuring presidential job approval, every single president has had a lower job approval on the last poll before their first mid-term election than they did at the beginning of that year.

These data points continue a trend more than half a year old. There is hardly any good news to be found for Democrats anywhere – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. In fact, they may get a whole lot worse for Democrats  sooner than anyone thought just a week or so ago. I have in mind, of course, the Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing Brown within two points of Coakley. (Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote). The conventional wisdom is that the national and state Democratic party has been awakened in the nick of time and that Coakley – with lots of outside help and money – will pull out a victory.

I’m not so sure. She obviously has enormous advantages working in her favor. But the entire feel of this campaign is very bad for Democrats, including the lurching shift from complacency to over-the-top attack ads; the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $550,000 in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets; the need for Coakley to rush down to Washington to speak before a group of lobbyists and special interest groups only a week before the election; the fine, confident performance by Brown in Tuesday’s debate versus the sub-par performance by Coakley; the spontaneous enthusiasm Brown is generating in Massachusetts; and now the roughing up of a Weekly Standard reporter by a Coakley aide/mercenary, exactly the kind of thing Coakley’s campaign does not need.

An enormous backlash against Obama and Democrats has been building in the country for months; that will continue regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Tuesday. But if Scott Brown pulls out a victory, it would have enormously far-reaching consequences for Democrats and for modern-day liberalism. It would shake their confidence to the core. It would trigger panic and recriminations in the Democratic party. It might convince a few more lawmakers that passing ObamaCare is just about the worst thing they can do. And when combined with the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, it would lead many Democrats to conclude that embracing Barack Obama and his brand of liberalism is a political death sentence.

Liberalism’s “sort-of God” is crashing before our eyes. So, it seems, is his party. It is really quite an extraordinary thing to witness.

The raft of bad polling data continues for President Obama. When voters were asked in a CNN/Opinion Research survey published on Tuesday to rate Obama’s performance since taking office, 48 percent judged it a failure while 47 percent saw a success. This corresponds with a new Quinnipiac University poll released today, showing voters split 45-45 on whether Obama’s first year was a success or failure. Earlier this week, a CBS News poll showed Obama’s job approval rating at 46 percent, marking the first time he had polled below 50 percent in that survey. The CBS poll also showed that Obama’s support among independent voters has fallen 10 points in the last few months alone.

Today’s Gallup poll has Obama’s approval rating on the economy – far and away the most important issue for the country – at an anemic 40 percent. His approval rating on health care – the issue he has devoted most of his presidency to – is at 37 percent. These numbers are the lowest of his presidency. In addition, Obama has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the January after the first year in office. And as Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies points out, since Gallup first started measuring presidential job approval, every single president has had a lower job approval on the last poll before their first mid-term election than they did at the beginning of that year.

These data points continue a trend more than half a year old. There is hardly any good news to be found for Democrats anywhere – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. In fact, they may get a whole lot worse for Democrats  sooner than anyone thought just a week or so ago. I have in mind, of course, the Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing Brown within two points of Coakley. (Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote). The conventional wisdom is that the national and state Democratic party has been awakened in the nick of time and that Coakley – with lots of outside help and money – will pull out a victory.

I’m not so sure. She obviously has enormous advantages working in her favor. But the entire feel of this campaign is very bad for Democrats, including the lurching shift from complacency to over-the-top attack ads; the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $550,000 in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets; the need for Coakley to rush down to Washington to speak before a group of lobbyists and special interest groups only a week before the election; the fine, confident performance by Brown in Tuesday’s debate versus the sub-par performance by Coakley; the spontaneous enthusiasm Brown is generating in Massachusetts; and now the roughing up of a Weekly Standard reporter by a Coakley aide/mercenary, exactly the kind of thing Coakley’s campaign does not need.

An enormous backlash against Obama and Democrats has been building in the country for months; that will continue regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Tuesday. But if Scott Brown pulls out a victory, it would have enormously far-reaching consequences for Democrats and for modern-day liberalism. It would shake their confidence to the core. It would trigger panic and recriminations in the Democratic party. It might convince a few more lawmakers that passing ObamaCare is just about the worst thing they can do. And when combined with the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, it would lead many Democrats to conclude that embracing Barack Obama and his brand of liberalism is a political death sentence.

Liberalism’s “sort-of God” is crashing before our eyes. So, it seems, is his party. It is really quite an extraordinary thing to witness.

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From King Canute to a Cork in the Ocean

White House political adviser David Axelrod granted an interview to Ron Brownstein of National Journal that qualifies as either hyper-spin or an almost clinical state of denial. For example, Axelrod tells Brownstein, “It’s almost impossible to win a referendum on yourself. And the Republicans would like this to be a referendum. It’s not going to be a referendum.”

Yes it will. When a political party controls the presidency and, by wide margins, the House and the Senate, the midterm election will be a referendum on the stewardship of that party. There’s no way to get around that. What’s particularly revealing is that Axelrod and his colleagues, rather than welcoming a referendum on their year in office, are terribly afraid of it. They know that if the dominant issues of the 2010 midterm election are how well Democrats have governed, they will absorb tremendous damage.

Axelrod makes this point in a slightly different way when he says:

If the question is what we’ve been able to achieve, which I think is substantial, versus the ideal of what people hope for or hoped for, that’s a harder race for us. If the choice is between the things we’ve achieved and we’re fighting for and what the other side would deliver, I think that’s very motivational to people.

In other words, if people measure us against perfection, we will fall short. But people won’t be measuring Obama and Democrats against perfection; they will be measuring him/them against the standards Obama set up — for example, insisting that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent in 2009 (it is now 10 percent); that the stimulus package would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs over the course of two years (2.8 million jobs have been lost since it was signed into law); that the deficit and debt would go down on his watch (Obama’s budget will double the debt in five years and triple it in 10 years); and so forth. Read More

White House political adviser David Axelrod granted an interview to Ron Brownstein of National Journal that qualifies as either hyper-spin or an almost clinical state of denial. For example, Axelrod tells Brownstein, “It’s almost impossible to win a referendum on yourself. And the Republicans would like this to be a referendum. It’s not going to be a referendum.”

Yes it will. When a political party controls the presidency and, by wide margins, the House and the Senate, the midterm election will be a referendum on the stewardship of that party. There’s no way to get around that. What’s particularly revealing is that Axelrod and his colleagues, rather than welcoming a referendum on their year in office, are terribly afraid of it. They know that if the dominant issues of the 2010 midterm election are how well Democrats have governed, they will absorb tremendous damage.

Axelrod makes this point in a slightly different way when he says:

If the question is what we’ve been able to achieve, which I think is substantial, versus the ideal of what people hope for or hoped for, that’s a harder race for us. If the choice is between the things we’ve achieved and we’re fighting for and what the other side would deliver, I think that’s very motivational to people.

In other words, if people measure us against perfection, we will fall short. But people won’t be measuring Obama and Democrats against perfection; they will be measuring him/them against the standards Obama set up — for example, insisting that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent in 2009 (it is now 10 percent); that the stimulus package would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs over the course of two years (2.8 million jobs have been lost since it was signed into law); that the deficit and debt would go down on his watch (Obama’s budget will double the debt in five years and triple it in 10 years); and so forth.

Mr. Axelrod also tells Brownstein that next on his checklist is “finish this health care bill successfully.” And after that? “Then we have to go out and sell it. I think we can run on this.”

The problem is that the president has been trying to “sell” ObamaCare for more than half a year. He has spoken out on its behalf repeatedly and in every forum imaginable. And the more Obama attempts to sell the Democrats’ health-care plan, the more unpopular it becomes. After a prolonged and intense debate on this issue, here’s what they have to show for it: “The president’s marks on handling health care, with reforms still under debate in Congress, are even lower [than his overall job approval rating of 46 percent] — just 36 percent approve, while 54 percent disapprove,” according to the latest CBS News poll. “Both of these approval ratings are the lowest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.”

If Axelrod and the Obama White House really believe the problem here is with their sales job rather than with the product they are trying to sell, then they are living in an alternative universe. ObamaCare is responsible in large measure for the devastating Democratic losses in the Virginia and New Jersey governors races. The political environment is so bad right now that even Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat is viewed by Republicans and Democrats as endangered. This is a remarkable political development.

Finally, Mr. Axelrod says this:

In certain ways we are at the mercy of forces that are larger than things we can control. If we see steady months of jobs growth between now and next November, I think the picture will be different than if we don’t. I think Ronald Reagan learned that lesson in 1982. We’re not immune to the physics of all of this. But I’m guardedly optimistic that we are going to see that progress.

Here’s a pretty good rule of thumb: when senior White House political advisers begin to use phrases like “we are at the mercy of forces that are larger than we can control” and “we’re not immune to the physics of all this,” you can assume they are in deep trouble. That is especially the case for those who work for a president who proclaimed that his victory would mark the moment “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Now Obama and Axelrod portray themselves like corks in the ocean. They invoke the laws of physics to explain why unemployment is in double digits. It turns out it is a quick journey from political messianism to political fatalism.

Axelrod’s words are a revealing (if unwitting) concession: he and his colleagues understand that they are overmatched by events and, in office for less than a year, they are scrambling to find excuses for the problems they face. But the fault, dear David, is not in the stars, but in yourselves. There will be a high political price to pay for this — perhaps starting next week but almost certainly by next November.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

First, governors of both parties object to ObamaCare. Now this: “A growing number of state regulators are urging the Obama administration to slow the rollout of proposed federal rules curbing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the administration’s approach could overwhelm them with paperwork, delay construction projects and undercut their own efforts to fight climate change.” It’s almost like the Obama agenda isn’t popular around the country.

A smart take on the snooty pundit set that looks down its nose at the Tea Party protesters: “Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.”

Democrats are sensing that the end of Harry Reid’s Senate career is nearing: “‘He’s in deep trouble, I think,’ said one senior aide to a member of the House Democratic leadership. ‘Even with the apology, no matter what it’s a negative thing. There are a lot of minorities that vote [in Nevada].'” At least some activists would like to try to save the seat: “Markos Moulitsas, the prominent liberal blogger and grassroots activist, went one step further, stating on his Twitter feed that he hoped Reid would not only resign leadership but also retire, ‘so we can hold the Nevada Senate seat.'”

Well, I think the voters will figure out they’re related: “As if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t have enough problems, say hello to Rory Reid, his eldest son. Looks just like him. He’s running for governor of Nevada. It will be Reid and Reid atop the November ballot in this state, the father running for his sixth term, the son making his first bid at statewide office. So far, this double bill is not going so great. Each candidate is dragging down the other, to look at the polls and listen to the Silver State’s political oddsmakers. And neither is mentioning the other’s campaign.”

Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma thinks his fellow Democrats messed up: ” ‘I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,” Boren said. At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of Washington.” He voted against both, but many of his colleagues walked the plank and may pay the price in November.

When it rains, it pours for the Democrats: “North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) has decided to run for the state’s newly-open Senate seat, a major recruiting victory for Republicans as they seek to expand the playing field in hopes of capitalizing on a national environment that favors their party.”

And Obama may not be able to help incumbent Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level yet in CBS News Polls, and for the first time is below the 50% mark — just 46% now approve of the job he is doing as president.” Only 42 percent of independents approve of his performance.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has figured out why the Fox deal with Sarah Palin really matters: “Doing TV, Palin will learn how to think on her feet. She should get used to getting to the studio thinking that she’s going to talk about one thing only to find out that she’s talking about something else. She’ll learn how to debate other people in a forum with no real ground rules. And if Palin gets boffo ratings with her occasional specials on people in what she might call the ‘real America,’ we can expect to see her star rise.”

Democrats still think ObamaCare is a winner. The voters? Not so much: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 17% believe passage of the legislation will achieve the stated goal of reducing health care costs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it will lead to higher costs. Fifty-two percent (52%) also believe passage of the legislation will lead to a decline in the quality of care. Overall, 40% of voters nationwide favor the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed. As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 19% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 45% are Strongly Opposed.” Sounds like a political train wreck, but we’ll see.

First, governors of both parties object to ObamaCare. Now this: “A growing number of state regulators are urging the Obama administration to slow the rollout of proposed federal rules curbing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the administration’s approach could overwhelm them with paperwork, delay construction projects and undercut their own efforts to fight climate change.” It’s almost like the Obama agenda isn’t popular around the country.

A smart take on the snooty pundit set that looks down its nose at the Tea Party protesters: “Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.”

Democrats are sensing that the end of Harry Reid’s Senate career is nearing: “‘He’s in deep trouble, I think,’ said one senior aide to a member of the House Democratic leadership. ‘Even with the apology, no matter what it’s a negative thing. There are a lot of minorities that vote [in Nevada].'” At least some activists would like to try to save the seat: “Markos Moulitsas, the prominent liberal blogger and grassroots activist, went one step further, stating on his Twitter feed that he hoped Reid would not only resign leadership but also retire, ‘so we can hold the Nevada Senate seat.'”

Well, I think the voters will figure out they’re related: “As if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t have enough problems, say hello to Rory Reid, his eldest son. Looks just like him. He’s running for governor of Nevada. It will be Reid and Reid atop the November ballot in this state, the father running for his sixth term, the son making his first bid at statewide office. So far, this double bill is not going so great. Each candidate is dragging down the other, to look at the polls and listen to the Silver State’s political oddsmakers. And neither is mentioning the other’s campaign.”

Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma thinks his fellow Democrats messed up: ” ‘I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,” Boren said. At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of Washington.” He voted against both, but many of his colleagues walked the plank and may pay the price in November.

When it rains, it pours for the Democrats: “North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) has decided to run for the state’s newly-open Senate seat, a major recruiting victory for Republicans as they seek to expand the playing field in hopes of capitalizing on a national environment that favors their party.”

And Obama may not be able to help incumbent Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level yet in CBS News Polls, and for the first time is below the 50% mark — just 46% now approve of the job he is doing as president.” Only 42 percent of independents approve of his performance.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has figured out why the Fox deal with Sarah Palin really matters: “Doing TV, Palin will learn how to think on her feet. She should get used to getting to the studio thinking that she’s going to talk about one thing only to find out that she’s talking about something else. She’ll learn how to debate other people in a forum with no real ground rules. And if Palin gets boffo ratings with her occasional specials on people in what she might call the ‘real America,’ we can expect to see her star rise.”

Democrats still think ObamaCare is a winner. The voters? Not so much: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 17% believe passage of the legislation will achieve the stated goal of reducing health care costs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it will lead to higher costs. Fifty-two percent (52%) also believe passage of the legislation will lead to a decline in the quality of care. Overall, 40% of voters nationwide favor the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed. As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 19% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 45% are Strongly Opposed.” Sounds like a political train wreck, but we’ll see.

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