Sunday, September 18, 2011

A fair look at Obama, cont.

Yesterday, I wrote a post speculating about why polls show that Americans broadly approve of Obama's economic policies yet give him poor marks for his handling of the economy. Short answer: he's being punished for not executing, or not fighting hard enough. Today, the New York Times devotes its lead editorial to the same apparent anomaly, and comes to a similar conclusion:

He has wasted far too much time trying to puzzle out how he can shave policies down far enough to get the Republicans to cooperate. The answer has long been clear: He can’t. Since he was elected, the Republicans have openly said they would not work with him, and a year ago, Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, said explicitly that the Republicans’ goal was simply to deny Mr. Obama a second term. The new Times poll showed that Americans do not believe bipartisanship is achievable. Six in 10 Democrats want the president to challenge Republicans more. He should not worry about voters thinking he is being mean. What he should worry about is that he is not showing them that he is fighting all out for their interests.

Their assessment, like Joe Klein's, is what I would call a fair look at Obama:
Mr. Obama has done more for the country than many voters realize. The stimulus program so demonized by Republicans was too small, but it saved the economy from a complete collapse. Mr. Obama’s maligned decision to bail out the car companies saved large numbers of jobs. The huge benefits of his health care reform, which Republicans have vowed to repeal, will become clearer to Americans in the years ahead.

That is not enough. The president has done far too little for far too long to help struggling homeowners, and he must do more to put Americans back to work. That is why it is so important and welcome that he has finally begun to take on Congress. His speech to the joint session outlining a significant jobs program was followed by the sound demand that it be paid for with tax revenue increases.

And the way forward is -- not simple, but clear:
There is so much noise out there that we are not sure most voters know how much they agree with the president. It is up to Mr. Obama to show them. 

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