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Trouble in Camelot

Posted on June 18, 2009

Trouble in Camelot



  The American people have been seeing a lot of President Barack Obama.  He is ubiquitous.  His press strategy has been “more is more.”



  What they haven’t seen is a lot of progress.  And they are getting a bit antsy about it.



  The New York Times, the President’s favorite newspaper, led its morning edition with this unhappy lead: “A substantial majority of Americans say President Obama has not developed a strategy to deal with the budget deficit, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, which also found that support for his plans to overhaul health care, rescue the auto industry and close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, falls well below his job approval ratings.”



  The Wall Street Journal concurred, writing this: “After a fairly smooth opening, President Barack Obama faces new concerns among the American public about the budget deficit and government intervention in the economy as he works to enact ambitious health and energy legislation, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.


These rising doubts threaten to overshadow the president's personal popularity and his agenda, in what may be a new phase of the Obama presidency.  "The public is really moving from evaluating him as a charismatic and charming leader to his specific handling of the challenges facing the country," says Peter D. Hart, a Democratic pollster who conducts the survey with Republican Bill McInturff. Going forward, he says, Mr. Obama and his allies "are going to have to navigate in pretty choppy waters."”



  Every Administration starts with a similar narrative.  They come in promising dramatic change from the previous occupants.  They have a honeymoon period, as the press fixates on the new personalities that make up the new team and the public interest stories that accompany those new hires.  The opposition goes through a period of self-reflection, which sometimes amounts to civil war.  If the White House is lucky, they strike fast, get big things done quickly, and ride the wave of reform.  If it doesn’t strike fast, it run into a legislative quagmire, and it loses the confidence of the people.



  It is too early to make the case that the Obama Administration is in a quagmire.  But things on health care look grim, and on cap and trade look even worse.



  The President’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t have any money to pay for his big programs, and he doesn’t quite know if he has the ability to sharply raise taxes in order to pay for them.  Most Americans don’t want their taxes raised, and the President campaigned on giving most Americans a tax cut. 



  Most Americans are also not happy with the idea of the government taking over most major industries in this country.  They don’t like the idea of Mr. Obama as the CEO of GM, they are worried that a government takeover of health care will lead to rationing, and they are tired of all of these bailouts of Wall Street.



  Outside of Republicans, who have a low opinion of the President, the rest of the country likes him personally.  So they are still giving him the benefit of the doubt at the moment.  But that doesn’t mean that doubts aren’t out there.  There is trouble in Camelot, and according the latest polls, the American people are starting to feel it.