Despite calls for a “post-partisan” presidency, a recent Pew Research Center study found that President Obama has the most polarized job-approval ratings for a new president in 40 years.
But, as Amy Walter writes on NationalJournal.com, the survey results shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
”This sounds shocking on its face - Obama more polarizing than Bush after the 2000 election? But … after all, when a president pushes - and passes - an agenda that leans heavily on government spending, Democrats rally around him while Republicans move away from him,” said Ms. Walter, an election analyst.
The survey’s 61-point gap in approval by the two major parties is driven by almost universal support from fellow Democrats, who give Mr. Obama an 88 percent approval rating. But only 27 percent of Republicans say they support Mr. Obama. In comparison, President Bush had a 51-point gap in April 2001 (he had higher approval ratings among Democrats than Mr. Obama has among Republicans), while President Clinton had a 45-point gap in April 1993. (His support among Democrats wasn’t as strong as Mr. Obama’s, though he had the same approval ratings among Republicans.)
”With almost universal support from Democrats, Obama doesn’t have to worry so much about keeping his base happy,” Ms. Walter wrote. “But the fact that he has so little support from Republicans means that he can’t afford to lose his standing with independent voters. At this point, independent voters are showing signs of disenchantment with the Democrats, but Republicans still need to give them a reason to support them and their policies.”
President Obama’s apology to Europe last week for past American “arrogance” was greeted with a collective “thank you” across the Continent, but his words have generated outrage among conservatives back home.
During a speech in Strasbourg, France, the president said the United States in the past had “shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” towards its allies - a clear shot at the often unilateral diplomatic style of the recent Bush administration that alienated much of the world.
Mr. Obama’s comments have been widely repeated by conservative bloggers and columnists, and have been used as a rallying cry for Republican Party support.
The American Conservative Union (ACU) has been circulating an e-mail petition condemning Mr. Obama’s words as un-American.
“If it weren’t for Americans and the blood that was shed, Europeans would be living under Nazi and fascist control,” ACU Executive Vice President Dennis Whitfield wrote to supporters Tuesday. “If it weren’t for America and our tax dollars defending Europe after the war, all of Europe would be under communist control today.
”Barack Obama wants the United States to accept the role of the bad guy as we humbly seek the Europeans’ support.”
”North Korea has launched a rocket into the Pacific Ocean. Now, the hawks are circling, threatening President Obama‘s sane approach to nonproliferation before it’s even off the ground,” according to Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the liberal Nation magazine.
”So it’s all the more crucial and welcome to see former Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel offering a powerful voice of reason on behalf of Global Zero - an international, nonpartisan initiative dedicated to achieving a binding, verifiable agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
“Hagel said, ‘The launch of the North Korean missile - in addition to demanding the aggressive pursuit of the six-party talks - should be viewed as an urgent call for the leaders of all the nuclear countries to support [President Obama’s and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev‘s] bold and historic effort to achieve the only real and lasting solution to proliferation and nuclear terrorism: the elimination of all nuclear weapons - global zero.
“ ‘Presidents Obama and Medvedev know that whatever stabilizing effect nuclear weapons may have had during the Cold War, any residual benefits of these arsenals are outweighed today by the risks of proliferation and terrorism - and that a commitment now by nuclear powers to begin serious negotiations for global zero would strengthen the case against North Korea and any non-nuclear nation which strives to acquire nuclear weapons.’ ”
The president took a pounding Monday from Capitol Hill Republicans for suggesting budget cuts in missile and missile-defense programs. But moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter said Tuesday he agrees with the administration’s approach to scale back such Cold War-era military tactics.
”I think he doesn’t want to get rid of them. He wants to reduce them,” the Pennsylvania senator said on MSNBC’S “Morning Joe” program. “And with the threat of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea developing nuclear weapons and other countries wanting to get them, I think it’s a good idea to reduce them.
“We’ve got a lot. We can reduce them and still have a deterrent and still be safe. I think it’s a move in the right direction. Ronald Reagan moved that way with the Soviets. And if it’s good enough for Ronald Reagan, I think it’s good enough for America.”
The five-term senator added that “diplomacy is the key to the future.”
“Once we establish bilateral talks with North Korea, we made some progress. I think we have to approach other countries, treat them in a dignified, respectful way - [although we] don’t have to agree with them.”
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, threw out the first pitch Tuesday at Boston’s Fenway Park to open the 2009 season for the hometown Red Sox. Hall of Fame-electee Jim Rice, who played 15 seasons in left field with the BoSox, caught the ceremonial pitch before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
”It’s the thrill of a lifetime,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I wasn’t born when my grandfather, Mayor Honey Fitz, threw out Fenway Park’s first-ever pitch at its 1912 opener, but I know how proud he was to be a loyal member of the famous ‘Royal Rooters’ and to be a part of Red Sox history that day.
“I’m honored to be joined by Jim Rice, whose election to the Hall of Fame in January is so well-deserved. I’m very grateful to the Boston Red Sox for this amazing opportunity, and I look forward to another world championship season this year.”
The Red Sox beat the defending American League champion Rays 5-3 in the season opener.
Boston Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, Mr. Kennedy’s maternal grandfather, was an ardent member of the Royal Rooters - a group of Red Sox fans who staged parades in the outfield before games. As mayor, Fitzgerald also threw out the first pitch at the first World Series game ever played at Fenway Park, in 1912.
• Sean Lengell can be reached at 202/636-3208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.