In an interview on NBC's Today Show two weeks after he was sworn in President Obama was blunt. He said that if he didn't deliver he'd be "a one term proposition." Put this in the category of what did he know and when did he know it. The it is that he was under the intense glare of the public to deliver the goods, or be quickly dumped in the presidential has been bin. Polls back up this hard political reality about Obama. A mid August Washington Post-ABC News survey found that his approval ratings continue to plunge. Part of that can be chalked up to inevitability.
New presidents always ride into office on the crest of both voter hopes and euphoria about the prospect of change and disgust at and voter fatigue with the former seat warmer in the White House. And new presidents just as quickly see their approval ratings dip or freefall. It's easy to see why. They try to do too much to soon, promise not to do political business in the old ways, try to make too drastic legislative changes, or quickly reverse the bad old policies of their predecessor. It's the fabled man on the white horse coming to the rescue. This is, of course, just that fable. Real politics and an impatient public knock that storybook notion for a loop.
In Obama's case, he gambled that his presidency would be a crowning success if he could beat back the fine tuned, well-oiled, and well-endowed health care industry juggernaut and get health care reform, that's real health care reform, through Congress and into law. Only one president has been able to do and that was Lyndon Johnson. He arm twisted, browbeat, and out smarted Congress and the health care industry to get Medicare. Johnson had won a landslide election victory in 1964, had fine tuned, hard nosed political skills, had the reform spirit of the civil rights movement and a solid Democratic party behind him. And he had the well spring public sentiment and sympathy from JFK's murder. Obama is not LBJ, politically. And he has neither the times or Johnson's massive mandate for change going for him.
Above everything else, the voters put Obama in the White House to make the economy right, reign in the Wall Street greed merchants, save jobs and homes, and get the credit pipeline to businesses open. That hasn't happened. Instead a raucous, and contentious health care reform fight before it did gave a badly fractured, GOP, the butt of scorn and jokes, something that it never dreamed in its wildest dreams in mid November could happen. That's the wedge to get back in the political hunt. If anyone had dared say a month ago that the percent of voters that actually blame Obama for making a mess of health care reform was in striking of those that blame the GOP for the mess, they'd have been measured for a straightjacket. A mid-August Pew Research survey found just that.
Obama eventually will get a health care bill to sign. But it will be a bill that will satisfy few. Progressives will scream even louder that the bill sans a public option, and deal laden with big Pharma giveaways, is smoke and mirrors, a sham reform, and yet another infuriating betrayal of his campaign pledge of hope and change. Fox Network, Limbaugh, and the GOP attack hounds will scream even louder that the bill and Obama are taking the country down a sink hole. The bill will leave the majority of voters confused, perplexed, and even more uneasy about what Obama is really up to, and his seeming inability to be the tough, decisive leader that millions took a chance on and backed.