February 14, 2013
You can barbecue my nose,
Make a giblet of my toes,
Make me freeze, make me fry,
Make me sigh, make me cry,
Still I’ll yell to the sky
Though I can’t tell you why,
That I ... like ... him!
- Sancho Panza, Man of La Mancha
entertainment complex is unable to understand Barack Obama’s popularity.
ask -- why, why, why -- isn’t the
Their query received
a crateful of fresh ammunition from a
recent poll. Gallup asked 1,015 adults their opinion of Obama’s handling of
the military, foreign affairs, immigration, energy, guns, taxes, the economy,
“the situation … between the Israelis and Palestinians,” and D.C.’s budget
president’s approval ratings were shockingly abysmal on debt (31 percent), the
mess in the Holy Land (36 percent), and the
economy (39 percent). More survey respondents gave him thumbs-down than
thumbs-up on taxes, guns, energy, immigration, and foreign policy, too.
Only on “defense”
was the chief executive not
underwater. Fifty-three percent approved, 44 percent disapproved. (Pitching
Osama bin Laden’s bullet-riddled corpse into the Arabian
Sea is an achievement without an expiration date.)
remains stubbornly high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is just creeping back
to where it was in October 2007. Gasoline,
food, taxes, and healthcare expenses are pinching families’ drooping incomes. The
conflict in Afghanistan
is a bloody logjam. The
nation isn’t hopeful, and hasn’t been for a long time.
So how, conservative
pundits and bloggers wonder, can the
president’s job-approval rating possibly
be north of 50 percent?
The answer is
simple. Most Americans like Barack Obama. He’s cool. He plays basketball. He jokes
around on late-night talk shows. He
knows the lyrics to “Let’s Stay Together.” Plus, in a country where divorce
and illegitimacy are rampant, he’s a family man. Got and stayed married. His two
kids, born within wedlock, appear to stay out of trouble.
couldn’t have been more different than Obama, but the Gipper’s presidency
experienced a similar phenomenon. A Media General-Associated Press poll
examined attitudes toward the outgoing incumbent at the end of 1988. On issue
after issue, the results were dismal. Fifty-one percent disapproved of Reagan’s
civil-rights policies. More than 60 percent were dissatisfied with his record
on housing and welfare. A majority thought the administration had poor ethics,
and 80 percent grumbled about budget deficits. Sentiment was widespread that
the Reagan Era had helped the affluent more than the middle class and poor.
Yet the AP
reported that a “vast two-thirds endorsed the way [Reagan] has done his job
overall.” The original Teflon President retained high popularity because he had
skills that no Ivy League education or campaign consultant can teach: “Two-thirds
ranked his leadership ability as excellent or good and three-quarters favorably
rated his charisma and his ability to communicate.”
and professional partisans refuse to accept it, but visceral responses to
elected officials have more impact than position papers and media coverage. Height,
weight, hair, voice, personality, habits, spouses, children -- they shouldn’t
matter. But they do. And that’s not likely to change.
As was the
case with nearly every president of the last century, Barack Obama has no
interest in jealously guarding Americans’ civil liberties and economic freedoms.
Almost every action he takes makes the “public sector” bigger.
But by now it ought
to be obvious that demonizing a president who most people find to be decent fellow
-- as well as a solid husband and father -- isn’t an effective tactic in the
crusade against Big Government. Mitt Romney’s campaign failed in large part
because its central theme, “the incumbent is evil,” was spectacularly ineffective.
Fixating on Obama as the wellspring of All That Is Wrong With The Republic won’t
yield many successes during the next four years, either. It’s time for a different
At the end of
the 40th president’s second term, an anonymous White House aide told Newsweek that “when Ronald Reagan has to
make a big decision -- and he doesn’t make small ones -- he asks himself one
question and one question only. He asks himself, what would John Wayne have
the Great Communicator’s views on taxes, deregulation, and the Cold War. But
his decisiveness, simplicity, and joviality drove them to delirium. The left still
refuses to forgive the public for embracing a president whom the loathsome
Democratic fixer Clark
Clifford dubbed an “amiable dunce.” Today, the Obama Derangement Industry
is making a similar mistake.
Whether it’s pickup
trucks, Pinot noirs, or presidents, de gustibus
non est disputandum.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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