- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2014

Nearly halfway through his ballyhooed “year of action,” President Obama isn’t getting much traction.

The president kicked off this election year by vowing to use his presidential “phone and pen” more often, taking executive action to create policies when congressional Republicans are blocking his agenda. Through the first five months of this year, Mr. Obama has taken more than 20 such actions, such as raising the minimum wage for federal contractors and designating a vast national monument in New Mexico.

But there is little evidence that voters, especially in Mr. Obama’s liberal base, care.

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“Year of Action?” asked Republican strategist John Feehery. “How about ‘Year of Blah’?”

Cable networks that typically fawn over Mr. Obama’s agenda are going “live” less often to air his campaign-style events, as when the president traveled to New York state two weeks ago to urge Congress to approve more money for road and bridge repairs. Mr. Obama said at the time that he was taking another executive action: to speed up the federal permitting process for such projects.

Also interfering with Mr. Obama’s “year of action” have been periodic blunders by the administration, such as the problems with Obamacare at the start of the year and the scandal this month about delays in veterans’ health care.

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An emotional surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan over the weekend was marred in part by an inadvertent White House revelation of the name of the CIA station chief in Kabul as part of the receiving delegation.

Political analysts say the episodes are calling into question the president’s leadership abilities.

“It’s a problem of incompetence,” Republican adviser Ana Navarro said of the Veterans Affairs scandal on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “It’s a problem of being asleep at the wheel. It’s a problem of lack of leadership and governance.”

Polls show the public is not exactly enthused about the president’s activist strategy, even as conservatives slam the president for abusing his powers by acting without congressional approval or oversight.

White House aides won’t say it, but one of the reasons for the president’s “year of action” is to motivate Democrats to vote in the midterm elections, a feat that is proving the political equivalent of enticing schoolchildren to eat nutritious lunches endorsed by first lady Michelle Obama.

The president last week called Democrats’ failure to vote in midterm elections a “congenital disease” that could cost the party control of the Senate for the final two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Enthusiasm gap

Despite the White House strategy, polls still show a large enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters for election turnout in November.

A Gallup survey released this month showed Democrats with a 23-point deficit in enthusiasm — 55 percent said they were less enthusiastic about voting than in previous elections, and 32 percent said they were more enthusiastic.

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