What's Wrong with President Obama?
A Commentary By Susan Estrich
As he announces his bid for re-election, President Barack Obama is facing some tough poll numbers. According to the Rasmussen Reports daily tracking poll, the president's approval index, as of April 4, was a not so stellar -14, which means that 14 percent more of us strongly disapprove of him than strongly approve. It's not quite as bad as it sounds: When you add the number who approve to the number who strongly approve, he gets up to 48 percent, with 40 percent strongly disapproving and another 11 percent disapproving but not strongly.
Of course, daily tracking polls are just that: a quick snapshot of where we are today, not a predictor of where we will be come November 2012. The latest unemployment numbers, the best in some time, should help the president. If the trend continues, the fact that his approval ratings on national security are even lower than the numbers I quoted above should be more than balanced by better numbers on his handling of the economy. And absent a major war, it's always the economy, stupid.
Even so, the lukewarm support for the president is striking. I understand why true believers on the conservative side are unhappy with this president. He pushed through major health care and financial reform, as well as a major stimulus program complete with lots of new jobs building bridges, repairing infrastructure and the like. He is letting gays serve openly in the military and is refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. He has appointed two progressive women to the United States Supreme Court. He brought the much-hated (and much-respected) Elizabeth Warren in to keep an eye on financial institutions. For a conservative, there are plenty of reasons to strongly disapprove, even if his commitment to Afghanistan and his strong steps in Libya would certainly be applauded if done under the watch of a George Bush.
It's my friends, my fellow travelers, whom I can't understand. I'm part of the "strongly approve" crowd, which doesn't mean I agree with everything he does. (I'm still waiting for some leadership on Israel's security.) It means I think he has been a strong and forceful leader who has pursued precisely the agenda he said he would as a candidate. Indeed, it's hard to think of a president since Ronald Reagan who has hewed to his campaign agenda as closely and as effectively as Obama. All the things that conservatives strongly disapprove of should be reasons for my friends to strongly approve.
So how come every time I find myself in a crowd of Democrats (which, living in Los Angeles, is all the time) almost everyone is complaining about Obama? Where are all those people who voted for him in 2008? Why are any of them in the disapprove column?
The president inherited an economy on the brink of disaster. I'm not playing the blame game, which is always a loser. I'm trying to put his accomplishments in the proper perspective. Whoever gets the blame for the crisis, and surely there is plenty to go around, Obama gets credit for the fact that the economy did not collapse, the recession has actually ended and unemployment is going down.
With the announcement of his bid for re-election, it's time for my liberal friends to stop whining and start working. It's time to stop focusing on what our president has done wrong and start reminding ourselves and others of all the things he has done right. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
From where I sit, the president deserves my support. And he has it.
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