Obama's Hope-skeptics





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Everybody wondered when Obama came into office when the honeymoon would be over. Consider it over.

We love snark, even snark directed at those celebrities (and yes, the president is an A-list celebrity) that we most love. So I wasn't surprised to see a pothole appear in his last set of poll numbers. He has dropped a few points on how he's handling the economy, moving closer to the low 50s in percent approving, but he's still riding high (close to 60 percent) in popularity and overall job approval. The people he's lost are the Hope-skeptics, who never really thought much of the campaign rhetoric but wanted to vote for a winner.

Iran's post-election violence is the big story of the week, but Obama can handle that easily with the right amount of non-interventionist finger-wagging. The economy, though, remains the shadow he can't shake.

Who would assume that in five months he could fix George Bush's catastrophic economic policies? Voters, that's who. They have short memories, and every Republican inside the beltway knows this. GOP insiders are sure to find some hope in these small drops in confidence, believing that it indicates voters have decided the economy is now Obama's problem to fix, not the past administration's.

So should Obama worry about a few people slipping off the bandwagon? Yes, he can ... and should.

This country has a pathological need to tear down celebrity. Just flip on the show TMZ to get a taste of how much we relish embarrassing and humiliating the rich and famous. I am convinced that all the handwringing over the baseball steroid scandal had nothing to do with protecting the kids or upholding the ethics of sportsmanship. It was all about seeing some arrogant millionaire bastards be taken down a peg or two, and most of us loved it.

If it were 40 years ago we might say that the president's celebrity is exempt from the usual hen-pecking. We all want to see him succeed, because if he does, all Americans benefit. Rooting against the president is like rooting against your school district's championship football team at state because they beat your school in the playoffs. Remember that year after 9/11 when everybody had W's back, we were all hanging flags outside our windows, and we all wanted to see justice done? Sure, it was temporary, but the rally-round-the-flag effect is there in difficult times. Where's Obama's rally, outside of the MoveOn people? I don't call 60 percent a rally.

In the political world the countdown clock starts every two years in November. Obama's clock started the day he was elected last year and the tick-tock is getting louder. There are millions of Republicans, who, like the corpulent Limbaugh, want nothing more than to see Obama's plans for reform fail miserably. I'm not saying that there are no Republicans who want to see the president's economic recovery plan work, but there are plenty who wouldn't mind another year and a half of economic woe in return for a midterm slap in the face for Obama in November 2010. From now until then, Obama will be under constant attack that he's either not doing enough or doing too much. My greatest fear is that one of the smartest people we've had in the White House in decades may be buried under a stinking heap of partisanship, impatience and deliberate subversion of his credibility and policy initiatives.

The few points he lost this week may seem like nothing, but to me it indicates that the last 10 points of his support is weak enough to peeled off as the economic crisis deepens. If the Democrats lose ground in 2010, as unlikely as that seems looking at today's poll numbers, then Obama's presidency could be hobbled in the same way Clinton's was (wait a minute, who's screening the interns)?

Here's a guy who has the mental and physical reflexes of a ninja-did you see him execute that fly on camera? Talk about a badass president. He pretended like it was no big deal until even he had to say, "That was pretty impressive, wasn't it? I got the sucker!" But I've heard the fly was sedated first and then planted to grab headlines.

Obama needs to swat away the gadflies constantly buzzing around him and play hardball in the next 17 months. His best move will not always be his signature smile and compromise or a friendly pat on the back for his enemies.

When they inevitably reject his last offer on health care, education or energy policy, he must turn the electoral tables on them and call them out. Ask for a counter-proposal, and when it turns out their real counter-proposal is just the status quo, call it for what it is. For all our faults, Americans do recognize and appreciate authenticity. They voted for him because he doesn't appear to be in it for the ego, and that same "call it like he sees it" grim-faced realism (which is about as close as he can come to Bush's "have-a-beer-with-me" folksiness) is what will sustain a winning streak all the way to 2010.

All the Josh-skeptics can gather at [email protected]

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All the Josh-skeptics can gather at [email protected]



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