President Obama is now reaching terminal velocity, like a skydiver plunging toward earth. Except he doesn’t have a parachute. There’s a mighty splat coming soon.
With his approval rating at 40 percent, down 6 points from early June, and just 29 percent of Americans convinced the country is on the “right track,” the president is doubling down on his strategy of blaming Republicans for his failures. And he’s shifting into hyperpartisan drive, traveling the country to campaign for Democrats, many of whom wish he’d just stay away.
Worse, the news just keeps getting well, worse: The Veterans Affairs scandal is blazing, with new horrific details emerging weekly; Congress is gathering kindling on the IRS scandal, which sends shivers of fear up the spines of wobbly Democrats; House Speaker John Boehner is fired up and plans to sue the president for his unilateral (and constitutionally banned) executive actions; and the rest of the world looks about to burst into flames.
But three things have happened this week that will make the president spin out of control as he plummets toward the ground.
America’s economy is in free fall (and even Team Obama can’t fudge the numbers to make things look OK). When the administration in April put out the rate of growth for the first quarter, it said the economy had grown by 0.1 percent. Last month, it changed the numbers: The economy had shrunk by 1 percent. And on Wednesday, the Commerce Department said oops, make that 2.96 percent — the 17th worst GDP quarterly performance in U.S. history.
What did the White House say? Uh, bad weather. But there was much more to the massive drop, according to economist Peter Morici.
“Businesses scaled back their investment, and that is a bit foreboding,” he said on Fox News. “They just don’t believe the president’s ballyhoo about this being a breakout year.”
The White House offered one other excuse: Consumer spending on health care “was substantially lower than originally reported,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
So Obamacare is killing the economy? How will the president spin that one?
Democratic hopes to hold the U.S. Senate got hammered in a slew of primaries to set the November races. Establishment Republicans knocked off upstart candidates in the intraparty battles, meaning Democrats will face experienced and well-funded foes come Election Day.
Despite the David-beats-Goliath upset that stunned House Majority Leader Eric Cantor earlier this month, the GOP appears intent on avoiding the 2012 congressional debacle, when inexperienced Republicans from the tea party wing made disastrous missteps and lost badly (remember “legitimate rape”?).
Top Republicans are urging the party to hew more closely to establishment ideas in the 2014 midterms. They plan to keep focused on the big issues: The crashed economy, the massive costs of Obamacare, the horrendous state of U.S. foreign policy, the dangers of amnesty for illegal aliens.
Democrats will have nowhere to run. If they flee the president, they’ll look weak, defensive — and guilty. If they back his failed policies, they’ll look even worse. Republicans never cease to amaze at their ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but even top Democrats are now predicting a bloodbath for the party on Nov. 4.
The last bit of bad news for the president won’t seem all that bad, but it is.
The Washington Post lambasted Mr. Obama for his weekly rounds of golf, 177 so far. (To put that into perspective, Tiger Woods plays about 18 tournaments, 72 rounds, a year.) Of course, The Post harangued President George W. Bush for playing golf, but he quit playing after America went to war with Iraq. (“I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal,” he said.)
“On June 14, Sunni rebels threatened Baghdad after seizing much of Iraq — and President Obama fearlessly played a round at the Sunnylands Golf Course in Rancho Mirage, Calif.,” wrote Dana Milbank. “The next day, the militants posted pictures of their mass execution of Shiite members of Iraq’s security forces — and Obama boldly teed off again, at Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s Rancho Mirage estate.”
But the liberal paper’s columnist declared that Mr. Obama’s once-a-week golf habit has enormous ramifications. “A majority of Americans now believes that Obama doesn’t understand their problems, and images of him playing golf — perceived, fairly or not, as a rich man’s game — confirms this out-of-touch reputation.”
Of course, the elitist image of the current president will be in play again in 2016, when Hillary “Dead Broke” Clinton and her Hundred-Million-Dollar hubby Bubba hope to move back into the White House.
But when they do, they’ll want to wash that smudge off the circular driveway by the South Portico, because the current president is plunging to earth, and it’s too late for him to pull the rip cord.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.