President Obama’s approval ratings are falling faster than skydiver Felix Baumgartner during his record-setting jump from outer space.
In a desperate move to salvage his second term, Mr. Obama threw out his top liberal agenda items — immigration, gun control and race relations — and pivoted to the economy. The problem is that the only one to blame for the five-year malaise is the current resident of the Oval Office.
The president fueled up Air Force One on Wednesday to fly to the heartland for two stops in an attempt to physically distance himself from Washington.
“It may seem hard right now, but if we’re willing to take a few bold steps — if Washington will just shake off its complacency, set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship that we’ve seen over the past few years — I promise you, our economy will be stronger a year from now,” Mr. Obama said at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
The president acts like he just arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last week. He’s had four years, yet his policies have failed to create jobs and restore economic growth.
“There are days I think he forgets that he is actually president,” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, told me Thursday. “He wants to blame everyone but himself and his failure to join bipartisan efforts to create jobs, like the Keystone pipeline, is the reason we are not in a better place.”
The economy has never grown much more than by minuscule amounts during the Obama administration. Gross domestic product has grown at an anemic pace since he’s been in the White House, barely sputtering at 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2013. Unemployment under Mr. Obama has averaged a discouraging 8.8 percent and still tops out at 7.6 percent.
Gas prices are rising again, but Mr. Obama spent a long stretch of these speeches touting the doubling of “clean energy” production on his watch. He claimed to have “saved the auto industry,” but didn’t mention that Detroit has gone bankrupt.
Most absurdly, he cited as a point of pride that “our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.” He left out two key points: The congressional Republicans demanded spending cuts for increasing the debt ceiling, and the rate of decrease is high because the deficits themselves have been the largest red ink in U.S. history. Spending was $1.4 trillion more than revenue in 2009 and $1 trillion more in 2012.
The Congressional Budget Office projects a $642 billion deficit for this fiscal year, but that’s mostly because Mr. Obama hiked taxes on Jan. 1 to pay for his spending habits.
The president takes almost as little responsibility for his own actions as Anthony D. Weiner, the disgraced sexting addict and former congressman running for New York City mayor.
“With this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop,” the president said in a 64-minute speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “Our focus has to be on the basic economic issues that matter most to you, the people we represent.”
By “phony scandals,” Mr. Obama is referring to the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservatives and then concealing the evidence and refusing to provide testimony to a congressional committee. He is also referring to his Justice Department sneaking into the emails and phone calls of reporters who don’t support the Obama administration’s agenda.
The president’s “endless parade of distractions” would also include exposing the National Security Agency’s secret Prism program that has been spying on innocent Americans’ Internet searches, phone calls and emails.
It has also been distracting to have Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. launch an investigation into whether George Zimmerman broke federal racial discrimination laws when he killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense.
The scandals have given the American public Obama fatigue.
According to a new McClatchy-Marist poll, the president has the lowest approval ratings in nearly two years, at just 41 percent, down a whopping 9 percent just since April. Mr. Obama’s political calculation to pivot to fiscal issues must be a reaction to the survey showing that 56 percent of the country disapproves of how he is handling the economy.
Mr. Obama’s political career has been based on his skill in convincing people to judge him on the things he says, rather than his actions. This ability is effective for a campaign but a disaster for governing.
The president now wants to play the innocent outsider taking on the Washington political establishment. No one should fall for it.
Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times.