Ten reasons the Obama presidency is melting down

June 14th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Nile Gardiner at the Telegraph gives his 10 reasons why Obama is in trouble:

  1. The American public is losing trust in Obama
  2. The Obama presidency is imperial in style and outlook
  3. Most Americans are still worried about the economy
  4. America’s level of debt is frightening
  5. Obamacare is hugely expensive and increasingly unpopular
  6. Independents are rapidly withdrawing support for Obama
  7. The liberal media is less deferential to Obama in his second term
  8. The Benghazi scandal has been extremely damaging
  9. Obama’s national security strategy is weak and confusing
  10. Obama is “leading from behind” on the world stage

Of course Obama doesn’t need to stand for election again, but what he is fighting for is his place in history – will it be as a good, bad or middling President?

Obama one year on

January 21st, 2010 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

Losing Massachusetts the day before his first anniversary as President makes it somewhat bitter for President Obama. But how has his first year gone?

Personally I don’t think Obama has done an awful job. I think his biggest mistake was the size of the fiscal stimulus, leading to a a truly horrible fiscal deficit. In his defence, Bush left him a huge deficit as it was – but he has made it worse.

On foreign issues, I don’t have huge gripes. He is not bolting out of Iraq, but decreasing troop numbers at much the same rate Bush would have. His surge in Afghanistan was the right thing to do. Like most of his predecessors he has made little progress on the Palestinian issue, but he has not become an Israel basher (I suspect his Chief of Staff moderates him here. Emanuel actually did volunteer service with the IDF duing the first gulf war).

He is showing some rationality with trade issues, as opposed to his pre-election rhetoric. And again Bush often went protectionist also.

His healthcare legislation has been a disaster. Even with massive compromises and watering down, it may not pass, and if it does pass it won’t solve the real problems.

I think Obama’s problems come down to three major things:

  1. Expectations. On TV yesterday that had a live focus group of 40 Massachusetts voters. They asked them to raise their hands if Obama has met or exceeded their expectations, and not a single one did. And this is in a blue state.
  2. Priorities. Obama’s fiscal stimulus did little bar increase the deficit massively, and turn the country into deficit hawks. Unemployment went well beyond his worst forecasts, and Obama was seen as too focused on other issues such as healthcare, cap and trade, foreign policy etc.
  3. Experience. I said before the election that Obama was inexperienced as he basically had just two years of experience as a legislator, and no executive experience at all, and it is showing. Bush left him a mess, and the credit crisis occurred, but regardless the presidency of the US is always going to be pretty much the toughest job in the world, and Obama is coping about as well as any first time Senator would – not that well.

Now there is some good news for him. His poll ratings are averaging 50% approval to 44% disapproval, which is up from a month ago. They are still historically very low – the only ones lower were Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan on their one year anniversaries.

He is still personally liked, if not respected, as AP reports:

But while nearly nine in 10 people like President Barack Obama personally, he earns decidedly mixed reviews in a new Associated Press-GfK poll judging his first year in office, a verdict darkened by a stunning repudiation of his party in the Massachusetts Senate race yesterday. …

Even three-quarters of Republicans say they personally like Obama.

The AP poll gives us net approval ratings for Obama on various issues:

  • The economy -1%
  • Iraq +10%
  • Healthcare 0%
  • Terrorism +15%
  • Environment +22%
  • Federal Deficit -16%
  • Energy +23%
  • Taxes -4%
  • Immigration -6%
  • Afghanistan +7%
  • Foreign Relationships +26%
  • Unemployment -1%
  • Gas prices -4%

The mid terms are looking to be focused on the economy, the deficit and jobs. It is quite possible now that the GOP could retake the House. The Senate is most unlikely though.

Too early to speculate much on 2012. Obama may be a one term President, but these are in his favour:

  • The economy should pick up
  • He has three years
  • The Republicans have to find an electable candidate
  • Now they no longer have 60 votes in the Senate, they can blame Republican blocking tactics for lack of progress on some issues
  • He may do a Clinton and head towards the centre more

What are the chances of the GOP taking the House in 2010? In August Nate Silver said it was a one in four chance, so probably more than that now. The Republicans lead in the generic ballot by 1%. However history has taught us that the party not in the majority normally does significantly better than its poll ratings a year out – so I’d say the chance of GOP taking the House is at least 50% now.

Obama vs Fox

October 21st, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Fox News reports on the war against them by the Obama Administration:

The White House is calling on other news organizations to isolate and alienate Fox News as it sends out top advisers to rail against the cable channel as a Republican Party mouthpiece.

This has of course sent ratings at Fox upwards.

The White House stopped providing guests to “Fox News Sunday” after host Chris Wallace fact-checked controversial assertions made by Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in August.

Dunn said fact-checking an administration official was “something I’ve never seen a Sunday show do.”

“She criticized ‘Fox News Sunday’ last week for fact-checking — fact-checking — an administration official,” Wallace said Sunday. “They didn’t say that our fact-checking was wrong. They just said that we had dared to fact-check.”

“Let’s fact-check Anita Dunn, because last Sunday she said that Fox ignores Republican scandals, and she specifically mentioned the scandal involving Nevada senator John Ensign,” Wallace added. “A number of Fox News shows have run stories about Senator Ensign. Anita Dunn’s facts were just plain wrong.”

How dare they fact check.

Fox of course does lean to the right. Nut the New York Times (for example) leans heavily to the left, and I don’t recall former Republican Governments refusing to be interviewed by the NYT.

Observers on both sides of the political aisle questioned the White House’s decision to continue waging war on a news organization, saying the move carried significant political risks.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said on CNN: “I don’t always agree with the White House. And on this one here I would disagree.”

David Gergen, who has worked for Democratic and Republican presidents, said: “I totally agree with Donna Brazile.” Gergen added that White House officials have “gotten themselves into a fight they don’t necessarily want to be in. I don’t think it’s in their best interest.”

I’ve never known politicians who take on the press head on, to win. You can make your case on biased coverage when and if it occurs, but to have the actual Government try and freeze a media organisation out if silly and will not help Obama.

Media columnist David Carr of The New York Times warned that the White House war on Fox “may present a genuine problem for Mr. Obama, who took great pains during the campaign to depict himself as being above the fray of over-heated partisan squabbling.”

“While there is undoubtedly a visceral thrill in finally setting out after your antagonists, the history of administrations that have successfully taken on the media and won is shorter than this sentence,” Carr wrote over the weekend. “So far, the only winner in this latest dispute seems to be Fox News. Ratings are up 20 percent this year.”

Carr sums it up perfectly – even though he works for the NYT 🙂

He added: “The administration, by deploying official resources against a troublesome media organization, seems to have brought a knife to a gunfight.”

And I think they will regret it.

Global opinions on Obama

October 18th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Adam Smith at The Inquiring Mind blogs on confidence in Obama in 25 different countries, and notes that despite his Cairo speech (cited as part of the rationale for the Nobel Peace Prize), he still ranks negatively in the Muslim world.

As always I am interested in the raw data. The question asked was whether they were confident Obama would do the right thing in world affairs. His net ratings (positive less negative) are:

  1. Kenya +89%
  2. Germany +88%
  3. France + 83%
  4. Canada +79%
  5. Nigeria +78%
  6. UK +76%
  7. Japan +76%
  8. South Korea +69%
  9. India +68%
  10. Brazil +56%
  11. US + 50%
  12. Spain +50%
  13. Indonesia +49%
  14. Poland +41%
  15. Argentina +35%
  16. Mexico +22%
  17. Russia -3%
  18. Lebanon -4%
  19. Egypt -5%
  20. Israel -13%
  21. Turkey -19%
  22. Jordan -27%
  23. Pakistan -38%
  24. China -39%
  25. Palestine -52%

So Russia, Muslim countries and China not persuaded yet.

Another question asks about overall favourability of the US, and tracks it from 1999. The data below shows the change between 2009 and 2008 (or 2007 if not polled in 2008) which presumably reflects the Obama effect.

  1. France +33%
  2. Germany +33%
  3. Indonesia +26%
  4. Spain +25%
  5. Mexico +22%
  6. UK +16%
  7. Argentina +16%
  8. Nigeria +15%
  9. Brazil +14%
  10. Canada +13%
  11. India +10%
  12. Japan +9%
  13. South Korea +8%
  14. Jordan +6%
  15. China +6%
  16. Egypt +5%
  17. Lebanon +4%
  18. US +4%
  19. Kenya +3%
  20. Palestine +2%
  21. Turkey +2%
  22. Poland -1%
  23. Russia -2%
  24. Pakistan -3%
  25. Israel -7%

So Obama has had US favourability rise greatly in Western Europe and South America. Asia had had a modest improvement, and Middle East countries a very small improvement only.

One thing I found interesting is that the US under Bush had a 87% favourability rating amongst Kenyans. Bush actually delivered huge aid to Africa.

The 2010 Pew data will be interesting.

Fran on Key and Obama

October 17th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran compares John Key to Barrack Obama, and not in a good way!

The “Mr Nice Guys” like Prime Minister John Key – and US President Barack Obama – who have soared high on the basis of personal popularity and feel-good vibes – are now finding out the hard way thatthere is more to making a good political hamburger than mere sizzle. …

Less than one year into his reign as New Zealand Prime Minister, Key’s popularity – like that of his party’s – is rocketing high in the opinion polls.

Much more so that Obama incidentially. Obama has only a net 11% positive rating, and the Democrats are polling only 4% ahead of the Republicans nationally.

Like Obama, Key has succeeded in one critical area: changing “the vibe” around his nation’s capital. Like Obama he is perceived as a Mr Nice Guy in large part because he is not his predecessor: Helen Clark in Key’s case, or George W. Bush (Obama).

That is a fair point. Of course John Key hasn’t won the Nobel Peace Prize simply for not being his predecessor!

It is a political truism the crucial strengths that underline a leader’s popularity are also their weaknesses.

Key – like his alter ego – is now in desperate need of the vital machine skills to ensure his Government does make progress on controversial flagship policies.

Key will be hoping he doesn’t have another week like the last one. The public are fairly forgiving of stuff ups, if they are corrected quickly. But if they start to form a pattern, then confidence gets shaken.

Liberty Scott on Nobel Peace Prize

October 12th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Liberty Scott summarises things well:

The best sentiments I’ve noticed on this, is that Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been mooted for the prize, has been imprisoned, tortured, beaten up repeatedly, lost his wife in an accident, and STILL decided for peace in Zimbabwe, to form a joint government with the murdering gangsters of Zanu-PF.

Apparently that wasn’t good enough. Not good enough for an African man in Africa at the front line of essentially civil war and insurrection, in a truly bankrupt economy, to risk himself so much to bring peace and justice to Zimbabwe. He may have been able to do much for Zimbabwe with the US$1 million prize.

But instead it went to Obama for some nice speeches.

I don’t think you can criticise Obama for this. From all accounts he is as mortified as everyone else, and this actually makes his job much harder.

Stimulus Plan

October 8th, 2009 at 3:22 pm by David Farrar

Grant Robertson blogs:

Barack Obama is facing all kinds of issues in the US at the moment- healthcare reform, whether to put more troops into Afghanistan, climate change, you name it. All the while, he faces huge expectations on the left and visceral anger on the right.

But one thing he can point to is a stimulus package that  has made some big investments in covers green jobs, extensive social assistance and research. The stimulus package included $21.5 billion in funding for research and development, particularly in leading edge genetic research. The money has been spread around the US, and is having a great effect in encouraging research where private sector funding has dried up.

This is the kind of long term thinking that has been missing from NZ’s response to the recession. Of course we don’t have $21 billion to do this, but our government has set on the sidelines, and worse still pulled back from research funding. If we want to improve productivity and develop a new economy, we need large scale investment. On this issue, the Obama administration is showing the way

While I am all for genetic research (then we can clone Hayley Holt), I think Grant’s drooling over Obama’s fiscal stimulus is rather regrettable. Even if one puts aside the huge fiscal deficit Obama is running (which makes you wonder about how large a deficit NZ Labour is planning), have a look at this graph from Harvard Economics Professor Greg Mankiw that someone linked to in the comments.


So the light blue line is what Obama said would happen without his fiscal stimulus, and the dark blue line is what he said would happen with his fiscal stimulus. And the red line is what has actually happened.

And this is Labour’s solution to rising unemployment!

Incidentally in NZ, where we had a more modest fiscal stimulus, consisting of tax cuts and advancing necessary infrastructure investment, the unemployment rate is just 6.0%. It was projected to peak at 8% (or even 9.8% on the downside scenario), but the latest Reserve Bank forecast is now for it to peak at 7.0%.

Now this doesn’t mean a massive fiscal stimulus spendup makes unemployment go even higher. I am not saying Obama caused unemployment to go higher than projected.

The lesson is that the Government impact on unemployment is limited. The private sector is what creates job, not the Government. Government created jobs are funded from private sector taxes and you need private sector jobs to pay those taxes.

Obama has saddled future generations with an out of control deficit, and debt which will soak up money which could be spent on health or education.

This is what Labour wanted for New Zealand. They have proposed mounds of extra spending that would have stuff all impact on unemployment, but leave a massive debt burden for the future.

History either way

August 30th, 2008 at 10:45 am by David Farrar

History will be made either way in November. Either the United States will have its first black President or it will have its first female Vice-President.

Daily Show on Obama’s flip-flop

July 10th, 2008 at 10:57 am by David Farrar

The Daily Show hasn’t really gone tough on Obama much, but this clip above is a good piss-take of efforts to defend his u-turn on public financing of his campaign.

Also Nevil Gibson at NBR examines his growing flip-flop on Iraq.

Obama’s experience

February 29th, 2008 at 8:04 am by David Farrar

I think Obama’s experience, or lack of it, is going to become more of a factor.  It got me wondering if any other President (I am assuming he becomes the candidate) has had as little experience at federal or state executive level.  Obama has to date had just three years in the Senate – one of which was mainly campaigning. And the Senate is about legislating not governing.  He’s so new he won’t even have chaired a committee.
Bush had only six years as Governor of Texas. Mind you Texas has GSP of US1.1 trillion, so that is no small economy.

Clinton has a massive 12 years as Governor of Arkansas and a further two years as State Attorney-General.

Bush 41 was Vice-President for eight years, CIA Director for a year,  Ambassador to the UN for two years, and a Congressman for four years.

Ronald Reagan served eight years as Governor of California, which has a GSP of $1.73 trillion.

Jimmy Carter served four years as Governor of Georgia with a GSP of $380 billion.

Gerald Ford had nine months as VP, but previously 25 years in Congress including nine years as House Minority Leader.

Nixon was VP for eight years, a Senator for two years and a Congressman for four years.

LBJ was VP for almost three years, a Senator for 12 years and  Senate Majority Leader for six years. Also in the House for 12 years before that.

JFK was a Senator for eight years and in the House for six years before that.

Eisenhower had never held elected office, but as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe for WWII displayed considerable executive ability.

Truman was VP for a few months, but a Senator for 10 years before that.

And finally FDR had been Governor of New York (GSP $1.1 trillion) for four years.  He also had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and a VP candidate before he became President.

I like Obama, but I really do wish he was standing in 2012 not 2008.  Apart from arguably Eisenhower I don’t think we have had such an inexperienced candidate. And going from the Illinois State Senate to Leader of the Free World in just four years may just be asking too much.  Time will tell.