Tales from the Trail
When President Obama reaches the podium for tonight’s State of the Union address, he’ll turn to a TV audience fed up with Washington and its incessant partisan bickering. But guess what: most viewers won’t be blaming him.
More than 90 percent of the American public thinks there’s too much partisan infighting and 70 percent say the federal government isn’t working well, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
But who’s the culprit? Only 27 percent blame the president. The biggest target of public disaffection are Republicans in Congress — at 48 percent — followed by congressional Democrats at 41 percent. Conducted Jan. 23-25, the survey of 800 adults has a 3.5 percent margin of error.
If the numbers are accurate, Obama’s message may find a fair amount of audience sympathy, particularly for his much-anticipated emphasis on jobs, the economy and curbs on Wall Street’s excesses.
Nearly three-quarters say not enough has been done to regulate Wall Street and the banking industry, while 51 percent want more emphasis on economic matters than they’ve seen up to now.
In fact, poll respondents are fairly optimistic about Obama’s future, with 54 percent saying he is facing either a short-term setback or no setback at all. There are even signs that his overall job approval rating has begun to edge up.
The folks at Gallup say Barack Obama is easily the most ‘polarized’ first-year president of the postwar era — and they’re not talking about pre-digital camera snapshots.
They mean that Obama, like his immediate predecessors, is the object of growing partisanship within American public opinion.
Obama finished his first year in office on Jan. 19 with an 88 percent job approval rating among Democrats but only 23 percent approval among Republicans.
That leaves a 65-percentage-point gap between the two partisan lines, eclipsing the previous first-year polarization record of 52 points, held by Democrat Bill Clinton.
If Obama’s numbers don’t change, he will exceed Republican George W. Bush as the most polarized of post-World War II presidents. (Over the course of Bush’s presidency, Republicans and Democrats were 61 points apart on average.)
But there’s something more afoot than the individual horse races.
Gallup says its findings illustrate an upswing in voter partisanship since the time of Republican Ronald Reagan. Before the 1980s, partisan approval gaps ranged from a low of 19 percent for Democrat Lyndon Johnson to a high of 34 percent for Republican Richard Nixon.
“Obama — like his immediate predecessor Bush — sought to bring Americans together after periods of heightened political polarization in the United States. But despite their best intentions and efforts, both men’s approval ratings have been characterized by extreme partisanship,” Gallup said.
“The way Americans view presidents has clearly changed in recent decades, perhaps owing to the growth in variety, sources and even politicization of news on cable television and the Internet, and the continuing popularity of politically oriented talk radio.”
Most Americans want President Obama and the Democrats to jettison the healthcare bill they almost got together before this week’s political earthquake in Massachusetts and instead look for something Republicans can support.
Think today’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts could be bad news for President Obama? Then consider what pollsters are saying now about the healthcare reform debate’s potential effect on the November congressional elections.
It might sound Pollyannaish coming from anybody other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hard-nosed intellectual who was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. But he says the gigantic catastrophe in Haiti may suggest some good things about the state of the modern world.
President Barack Obama’s approval ratings may have slipped in some polling data. But there’s a tiny bit of good news for him on an issue that his Republican critics have been whacking away at for weeks now: terrorism.
Republican John McCain says he doesn’t know whether his former vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, was adequately vetted. At least, he doesn’t know who says she wasn’t, and he doesn’t care. What he does know is that the 2008 presidential race was a tough fight. But now he’s very proud and very happy. Any more questions? Get lost.
McCain just wouldn’t take the bait in an interview with NBC’s Today show when asked to comment on revelations about his failed 2008 White House campaign that appear in the new book, “Game Change,” by New York magazine writer John Heilemann and Time magazine reporter Mark Halperin .
NBC asked whether the book is correct where it describes the vetting process for Palin as hasty and haphazard, with no one bothering to speak to her husband or her political enemies.
“I wouldn’t know,” McCain replied.
Sorry? The Republican Party nominee wouldn’t know if his own running mate had been adequately vetted?
“I wouldn’t know what the sources are, nor care,” the Arizona senator explained.
“I am not going to spend time looking back at what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state and things to do. I’m sorry. You’ll have to get others to comment.”
McCain’s decision to transplant Palin from political obscurity to the national limelight undermined his credibility even among Republicans. Some worried that voters would see the former Alaska governor as too inexperienced to become Veep and possibly, some day, take on the mantle of Commander-in-Chief during a national emergency.
Palin has since become the most visible Republican figure in the national political firmament, publishing a best-selling book, landing a job as pundit on FOX News and attracting speculation about a possible White House run in 2012.
“She will be a major factor in American politics in the future,” McCain predicted, with an apparent air of vindication.
“I am proud of everybody in my campaign. I’m proud of the campaign we ran. I’m so proud that I had the opportunity to represent my party in the election. And I’ll always look back on that period with pride and with satisfaction. It was tough. But I’m very happy and I’m very happy in my new role in the Senate and going back and fighting the good fight.”
Believe it or not, Rod Blagojevich is African-American — and more so than President Barack Obama. At least, that’s what the former Illinois governor tells Esquire magazine in a new interview.
“It’s such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of (expletive deleted) and phonies, but I was real, man — and am real. This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the (expletive deleted)? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter,” Esquire quotes Blago as saying about the president, without the expletives deleted.