An interesting poll the Washington Post shows that the President’s effort top pin the blame on the GOP is working. From the Post’s Greg Sargent:
[Poll question]: “President Obama is making a good faith effort to deal with the country’s economic problems, but the Republicans in Congress are playing politics by blocking his proposals and programs.” Or this: “President Obama has not provided leadership on the economy, and he is just blaming the Republicans in Congress as an excuse for not doing his job.”
The toplines: Americans agree with the first statement over the second one, 50-44. According to numbers sent my way by the Post polling team, this is more pronounced among moderates and independents:
* Independents favor statement one over statement two by 54-40.
* Moderates favor statement one over statement two by 57-37.
Those are damn good numbers. We’ve been saying for a while, a few years now actually, that the President needed to define for the American people who was blocking his proposals. In the past, he at most mentioned “congress,” but didn’t’ want to blame Republicans generally, or any Republican in particular. A few months ago, when someone clearly got to the President and told him he was going to lose re-election if he didn’t start fighting back, the President started fighting back. And it’s working.
I disagree with both Greg and Steve on the rest of this – the people are correct on both accounts:
In the same Post poll, 53 percent of independents give Obama a negative rating on whether he’s a strong leader!
Steve Benen put it very well:
Voters’ understanding of the political process is severely limited, and many Americans likely fail to appreciate the role Congress must play in policymaking. There are no doubt plenty of voters thinking, “Sure, Republicans are sabotaging the economy, but why can’t Obama just go around them?” unaware of the fact that, on a grand scale, this isn’t an option.
That’s not entirely true. As I’ve noted before, George Bush never had more than 55 Republicans in the Senate during his entire 8 year tenure, and he did pretty well for himself. It is simply untrue that the President is powerless to influence Congress, and I think that kind of “woe is me”, “gosh I’m only the President of the United States, what can I do?” talk only reinforces President Obama’s natural predilection towards submission.
I shudder to make a Nazi comparison, but the logic of the argument is relevant here: “We all can agree that Hitler was a bad man. Does that therefore mean that it’s naive of us to think that Neville Chamberlain was a weak leader?”
It is possible for a leader to face a nasty enemy, and do it in a weak way.
I would submit that that is exactly what President Obama has done for much of the past three years. And the public, rightly, clued in to it. I’ve said for a while now that President Obama’s “problem” has not been simply that the Republicans lie and obstruct. It’s that the public perceives him as a weak leader. I think that the more he stands up to the GOP, as he has done these past few months, the more that perception can change in time for the election. But he has to keep it up.