Alex Massie

Obama Still Extremely, Inconveniently Popular

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Melanie may think that the United States made a monumental blunder when it elected Barack Obama, but right now, it must be said, the Americans themselves seem pretty happy with their new President. For the last week newspapers and cable TV have been hyping every perceived blunder and doing everything bar declaring the Obama presidency a failure. Already. The voters seem more sanguine. And sober.

According to the latest Gallup poll, two thirds of the electorate approve of the manner in which Obama has handled the debate over the economic stimulus plan. Just 25% disapprove of the way he's approached matters. In other words, there are plenty of people who voted for McCain who are quite happy with the way Obama is handling affairs. By contrast, fully 58% of the electorate disapprove of the way Congressional Republicans approached the stimulus debate. This suggests, as Dave Weigel sagely observes, that no matter how cheered conservatives may be by the GOP's sudden conversion to fiscal rectitude the electorate as a whole is not in the mood for a new era of This Time When We Say Small Government We Might Actually Mean It.

Mind you, I also think i's possible that the voters are simply taking a more sensible, longer view of the Obama presidency than are the media for whom every stramash is an era-defining crisis. Voters, I think, are less susceptible to this kind of entertaining tomfoolery when times are grave. Right now they'd rather see the Obama administration concentrate on the big stuff, rather than be distracted by whatever passes for scandal in Washington these days. That's not to say that the Daschle and Geithner episodes weren't damaging, merely that they were far less damaging than they might have been had Obama entered office in happier, sunnier times. The Clintons, after all, were undone, or at least damaged and thrown off-course, by controversies over pretty minor and trivial matters such as Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the firing of the White House travel office. In good times, when the country is content and doesn't think elections or politics matter much, these episodes assume an importance out of all proportion to their true significance but in bad times voters may find the media's obsession with such matters to be a trivial distraction from the main task at hand.

Besides, it's not as though the electorate can be entirely unsurprised that the new administration has not always lived up to its campaign rhetoric: the voters chose the young, inexperienced guy for a reason and can hardly be surprised if some teething problems are part of the package that comes with that. Just to repeat, however: the new President remains a pretty popular fellow.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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