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LAMBRO: The second-term slump
The president is squarely in a poll slide
President Obama's job-approval ratings are declining, proving Abraham Lincoln's admonition that you can't fool all the people all the time.
The Gallup Poll reported Thursday that Mr. Obama's job-approval rating has fallen to a politically embarrassing 46 percent, and that 47 percent of those polled disapprove of his second-term performance, up 3 points from last month.
To add insult to injury, Mr. Obama has had to swallow the news that his Republican predecessor, on whom he has blamed all of his problems, deficiencies, failures and blunders, is now seen as more popular than he is. A separate, nationwide Gallup survey finds that former President George W. Bush is seen as "more positive than negative for the first time since 2005, with 49 percent rating him favorably and 46 percent unfavorably."
This may be the result of Mr. Bush's decision to stay out of the political swamp, as he calls it, and refrain from making any disparaging remarks about his successor. It also may signal the public's longing for the tame, $147 billion budget deficit near the end of Mr. Bush's presidency, a 5.2 percent average unemployment rate over his eight years, and less than $2 a gallon for regular gasoline at the end of his term in office.
Now in the sixth month of his unfocused, purposeless, scandal-ridden second term, Mr. Obama's troubled presidency is wearing thin among many Americans who seem to have come down with a chronic case of buyer's remorse. He promised to bring the high unemployment rate down to about 6 percent, but it remains at 7.6 percent. Nearly 12 million Americans are still unemployed. The real unemployment rate — when you add part-time workers who can't find full-time jobs and millions of discouraged people who stopped looking for work — is closer to 14 percent.
Mr. Obama said he would boost the economy's growth rate to get Americans working again. Economic growth has been stuck in an anemic 2 percent range at best and has fallen well below that level in recent quarters.
The president said he would hold the line on gas prices, but they have risen to budget-busting levels under his policies against fossil fuels. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline at the pump was running around $3.63 Thursday, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, though the price was nearly $4 a gallon and higher in many parts of the country, particularly the Midwest. Gas prices today are higher than they were a year ago, but that doesn't surprise people who have closely tracked Mr. Obama's assertion that higher gas prices are good for us. Here is the inside story:
When Mr. Obama took office on Inauguration Day 2009, regular gas was selling for $1.90 a gallon under Mr. Bush's pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-energy independence policies. The decline in gas prices under the Bush administration was a welcome relief to motorists, but not to Mr. Obama, who thinks gas prices must rise substantially if costly, heavily subsidized, alternative fuels are to become economically viable.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Steven Chu, then a physicist professor at Stanford University and an Obama energy adviser, told The Wall Street Journal: "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," where gas prices are about $9 a gallon.
That was music to Mr. Obama's ears. He made Mr. Chu his secretary of energy, and gas prices soared.
Over the course of the past six months, Mr. Obama's zigzagging, improvisational presidency has been battered by one scandal after another, further eroding whatever trust voters had in him when they gave him a second term.
The administration's slippery explanations, doubts and denials about what was clearly an all-out terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, spawned suspicions that the White House was playing politics with this tragic event in the midst of the 2012 campaign. To this day, the White House's double-talk response about what happened has the rank smell of dissembling and cover-up.
Then came the nasty Internal Revenue Service scandal, in which, under orders from Washington officials, federal tax agents targeted and intimidated dozens of conservative groups during the 2012 campaign cycle to delay and deny their tax-exempt status, which kept them from raising money.
More recently has been the catastrophic disclosure of national security surveillance programs by a low-level libertarian ideologue with delusions of power who thinks the terrorists should know exactly how and where we are tracking them to prevent another Sept. 11.
The scandal isn't that we've used telephone and Internet data tracking, under oversight by the courts, to uncover and foil terrorist attacks on our country and our allies. The police have used such tools in their criminal investigations for a long time. The real scandal is this administration's negligent hiring practices in our intelligence agencies and its loose security rules, which allowed this national security thievery to take place.
The result: The president is fast losing the confidence of American people who voted for him in November. They see a chief executive who has an excuse for everything that has gone wrong in his presidency, who spends much of his time at party fundraisers and focusing on next year's midterm elections, rather than dealing with bread-and-butter issues that concern most Americans.
In a nationwide survey, the Gallup Poll read out a list of institutions in American society, asking, "How much confidence do you, yourself, have in each one?" Confidence in the Obama presidency ranked fifth in the responses, with a dismal 36 percent answering in the affirmative.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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