It appears ABC News sold what few shards remained of its reputation for
journalistic integrity for chump change. The infomercial on President
Obama's health care plan ABC broadcast from the White House June 24 was
a ratings bomb.
Nor did Mr. Obama's performance generate rave reviews, even from ABC:
"In ABC News health care forum, Obama struggles to explain whether his
proposals would force normal Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier
people wouldn't face," the ABC report on the event began.
President Obama is popular. The Gallup Poll taken June 16-18 put his
job approval rating at 58 percent. But his policies are not. A
majority of Americans think he's spending too much money, and
pluralities don't like most of the programs on which he's spending the
It's possible this dichotomy will continue indefinitely. But the odds
are against it. Either the popularity of Mr. Obama's policies will rise
toward his, or his personal popularity will fall to near that of his
Health care reform is a dry subject, especially on a summer evening.
But the miserable audience for the ABC infomercial could indicate Mr.
Obama's personal popularity is approaching a tipping point.
Much of Mr. Obama's appeal especially to younger voters was his
freshness and newness. He was more hip and cool than the old white guy
the Republicans nominated.
But freshness has a half life, and it is endangered by overexposure.
Mr. Obama talks so much and at such length voters may be getting tired
of hearing from him, thinks Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics.
"In the first five months of his presidency Obama has held three prime
time news conferences, 12 formal Q&A sessions and had delivered a number
of high profile policy addresses, each one amplified by extensive
coverage by the media," Mr. Bevan wrote June 12. "At some point the
public is going to get tired of hearing speeches from Obama, no matter
how eloquent or well delivered."
Mr. Bevan is a conservative. But comedian Bill Maher, who is very
liberal, made a similar observation:
"It's getting so you can't turn on your tv without seeing Obama," Mr.
Maher wrote in the Los Angeles Times June 12. "I'm still a fan, but
there is a fine line between being transparent and being overexposed."
His cheerleaders in the news media exaggerate how popular the president
is. At 58 percent, Mr. Obama's job approval is sixth among the last
eight presidents after their first five months in office, noted Mort
Kondracke of Roll Call. This despite having by far the most favorable
news coverage of any recent president, according to Pew Research.
An analysis of those ratings shows how ephemeral personal popularity can
be. Two with higher ratings than Mr. Obama George H.W. Bush at 69
percent and Jimmy Carter at 63 percent were landslide losers in their
bids for re-election. The president with by far the lowest rating
Bill Clinton at 39 percent was re-elected handily.
At his news conference June 23, Mr. Obama was asked some tough questions
for, really, the first time in his presidency. Michael Goodwin of the
New York Daily News thinks the "unprecedentedly aggressive tone"
reporters took indicates even the torrid romance between Mr. Obama and
the press may be cooling.
"By peppering the president with forceful questions on Iran and other
big topics and by challenging some of his slippery answers, reporters
captured the changing tone in the country," Mr. Goodwin wrote. "Like
the end of a real honeymoon, infatuation is giving way to a more
accurate view of reality."
If Mr. Obama's popularity is fading, it's mostly because at some point
people pay less attention to words, no matter how flowery, and more
attention to deeds. For few will the disillusionment be as great as its
been for the young Iranian-Americans who voted enthusiastically for
hopenchange last fall, only to discover their champion doesn't think it
applies to their friends and relatives in Iran.
But many other
Americans some on the left as well as in the center are beginning
to experience cognitive dissonance between who they imagined Barack
Obama to be, and who the guy in the White House actually is.