Commentary Magazine


Mr. Obama Goes to Washington

Politico tells us:

While Washington talks about Obama’s new mojo, polls show voters outside the Beltway are sulking — soured on the president, his party and his program. The Gallup Poll has Obama’s approval rating at an ominous 49 percent, after hitting a record low of 47 percent last weekend. A new poll in Pennsylvania, a bellwether industrial state, shows his numbers sinking, as did recent polls in Ohio and Florida. So there are two Obamas: Rising in D.C., struggling in the U.S.

There are several noteworthy aspects to this. First, it’s silly — Washington is composed mostly of Democrats these days, so of course they marvel at Obama’s mojo and “success.” A sample of the fantasy land they inhabit: “Obama aides say that perceptions in the capital about Obama’s effectiveness and political standing have been changed not just by health care, but also job growth, foreign-policy successes and lower-than-expected costs for the bailout.” Job growth?? Lower-than expected cost for the bailout?? I think they’ve got something(s) confused. And the foreign-policy success, I suppose, refers not so much to debacles in our dealings with Iran and the Middle East more generally but to the unratifiable START treaty and relatively meaningless “collect the nuclear materials in four years” deal. This is what passes for Washington wisdom.

Well, then there is the irony that the Yes-We-Can-Change-Washington candidate is now a creature and pop star inside the Beltway and increasingly unpopular everywhere else. It is the triumph inside the Beltway of a president who “won” on health care over the reality in the country, where that “victory” is reviled and will likely lead to a drubbing for his party in November.

And finally, the answer to the president’s woes? More spin! Oh, yes. Democrats proclaim that:

… they fear that Obama moved on too quickly and warn urgently that the White House needs to expend more bandwidth promoting the win. After all, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel originally wanted the bill signed by November, so Democrats would have a full year to explain and promote the bill before midterms.

“They’ve got beat the hell out of this: He’s got to get out there and sell the damn thing,” said a top outside adviser to the White House. “Health care will not sell itself. The only person that can really change the narrative out in the country is the president of the United States.”

The answer to policy objections is always, with this crowd, more PR.

In all of this, one can only marvel at the deep cynicism of a candidate who spun New Age blather, disguised his ideological extremism, and came to Washington to discover he’s at odds with the country that less than two years ago was in the palm of his hand. It seems it never dawned on the Obami that once the ruse was revealed, the public would be annoyed, angry even. They just figured everyone would sort of go along. It must come as a shock to Obama to see the public so resistant to his charms and so disenchanted with the agenda he was smart enough to hide until he won the election.

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