The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan was probably right last week when she wrote that “nobody loves Obama” anymore. In last week’s Gallup poll, the president’s approval rating dropped to a George W. Bush-like 40 percent. While Obama probably still has at least a 50-50 chance of winning re-election next fall, if he does, it’ll be a narrow, anticlimactic win over an even less-loved rival, like impeccably credentialed but universally underwhelming former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
As Obama joylessly ended weeks of partisan fighting by signing a budget bill that avoids a credit default but barely cuts the national debt and does nothing in the way of tax reform, nearly every constituency — left, right and center — has found a reason to loathe both the new law and Obama.
On the left, New York Times economist Paul Krugman thinks that Obama “surrendered,” and the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel decries the president’s “eagerness” to please the Tea Party. On the right, the Journal’s Bret Stephens writes that Hillary Clinton “would have made a better president,” and Fox News’ Mike Huckabee calls Obama’s role in the episode “amateur hour.”
It’s clear that whether it’s in 2012 or 2016, by the time Obama leaves the White House, you’ll have to look hard to find anyone who still loves him. But almost everyone will miss him when he’s gone.
If you’re a progressive, and someone told you three years ago that after the nation elected its first black president, he’d enact universal health coverage, triple the number of women on the Supreme Court, do away with Bill Clinton’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, end major combat operations in Iraq, rescue the U.S. auto industry and declare an end to torture at Guantánamo Bay — even if he couldn’t shut the place down — that’s a deal you would have taken.
If you’re a conservative, and someone told you three years ago that eight weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, Obama would be elected and then enact Mitt Romney’s health coverage plan, make lemonade out of the hated TARP bailout, implement a payroll tax holiday, extend the Bush-era tax cuts and nurse the Dow Jones industrial average back from the 7,000s to the 12,000s — all on the way to killing Osama bin Laden — that’s a deal that you would have taken.
If you’re one of those wishy-washy, fence-straddling moderates (also known as everyone else in America), and you’d been told three years ago that at the apex of his presidency, Obama would stand still for a political kneecapping over raising the debt ceiling — something Congress did for Ronald Reagan 18 times — so that you could go out tomorrow and still find yourself a low-interest car, home or student loan if you needed one, that’s a deal you would have taken, too.