Obama always sounds like a student arguing with a professor over his grade, doesn’t he? Bob Herbert explains why it’s not working this time:
Barack Obama seems to think he’s done a pretty terrific job as president, but maybe he hasn’t trumpeted his accomplishments effectively enough.
He told The Times’s Peter Baker, in an interview for the Sunday magazine, “Given how much stuff was coming at us, we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top — that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular.”
This assessment by the president is debatable, but it won’t be among the things that are front and center in the minds of voters as the November elections approach. The problem for Mr. Obama and the Democrats is the widespread sense among anxiety-riddled Americans that the country is still in very bad shape and headed in the wrong direction.
A Gallup poll last week found that 62 percent feel that economic conditions are deteriorating.
The president and his party may have racked up one legislative victory after another — on the bank bailouts, the stimulus package, the health care bill, and so forth — but ordinary Americans do not feel as if their lives or their prospects are improving. And they don’t think it’s a public relations problem.
Nearly 15 million are jobless and many who are working are worried that they (or a close relative) will soon become unemployed. The once solid foundation of home ownership has grown increasingly wobbly, with the number of foreclosures this year expected to surpass a million. And the country is still at war.
The voter unrest that is manifesting itself in myriad (and often peculiar) ways reflects a real fear that not just family finances but the country itself is in a state of decline. “I don’t know where we’re headed,” said a businessman named Chuck Carruthers, who chatted with me in a coffee shop in Atlanta last week. “But I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s anyplace good.”