Why Republican Attacks in Obama Scandals Aren’t Sticking
Karl Rove has predicted Benghazi will be “corrosive” to President Barack Obama. Fox News political maven Roger Ailes in an email to Fox News employees compares the Obama administration’s actions against his company to McCarthyism and predicts they will fail. Is Barack Obama on the political ropes going down for the count — to become yet one more unpopular second term President?
Nope says The National Journal’s Charlie Cook who unlike Rove (whose track record, predictions and election-night performance on Fox suggested he was perhaps separated from birth from Dick Morris…the worst pundit since the snake told Adam a bit of the apple wouldn’t hurt) and Ailes (the quintessential partisan and major power figure in the GOP) has a better record in stand-back-and-analyze punditry. And Cook says the Republican charges aren’t stick on Obama for a key reason:
The Republicans and Republican Party are greatly disliked, not trusted and lack credibility with a big chunk of the American voting public. I’d call that chunk in particular “the middle.” Part of his analysis:
Henny Youngman, the late borscht belt comedian, told hundreds of politically incorrect jokes. One of them was his response when asked, “How’s your wife?” “Compared to what?” he’d say.
Many women find the joke tasteless, but it can be a useful framework for thinking about national politics. Americans may not be ecstatic about President Obama and his policies, but compared with the Republicans, they think Obama doesn’t look so bad.
To use another Henny Youngman joke, many American voters look at the 24/7 outraged and overreaching Republicans (impeachment! worse than Watergate!) and in effect say: Take the Republicans. Please.
This might partly explain why, even with all of the controversies engulfing the Obama administration these days, the president doesn’t appear to be hurt at all, at least as measured by job-approval ratings.
The numbers paint a picture very different from most congressional Republicans’ view of the world. Obama’s job-approval ratings are pretty much where they have been for the past few months, before the controversies over Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Associated Press began dominating the news two weeks ago. The May 17-18 CNN/ORC poll pegs Obama’s job approval at 53 percent, up 2 points from early April. The Gallup Organization’s polling for the week of May 6-12 showed that 49 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove of the president. For the following week, May 13-19, the numbers were precisely the same. The three-night average ratings for May 20-22 were 50 approve, 44 disapprove. Obama’s numbers have been within the same range for months. His job-approval rating, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, released May 21, is still hovering around the same place, at 51 percent.
Right now the GOP and much of the conservative new media are back in the same echo chamber that absolutely convinced them that there would be a big blow-out party for President Mitt Romney on election night. This doesn’t mean Obama won’t face problems, of have his poll numbers go down. But at THIS writing GOPers political hyperventilating isn’t impressing a chunk of the American public that’d be better convinced with a cool laying out of facts versus a parade of partisan assumptions.
More troubling for the GOP should be the CNN poll in which only 35 percent of respondents said they view the Republican Party favorably and an incredible 59 percent said they view the party unfavorably. In CNN polling, dating back to 1992, neither party has had an unfavorable rating higher than 59 percent (the GOP hit 59 percent one other time). Democrats are hardly riding high—recording 52 percent favorable/43 percent unfavorable ratings—but they’re doing a heck of a lot better than Republicans in the public’s eyes.
To boil that down, to many Americans the choice is between a smelly wet dog or a snunk with its tail up in mid-spray. Not good choices but one stinks less than the other.
Basically, Republicans are attacking Obama where he is least vulnerable and at a time when they have minimal credibility. It isn’t working. By trying to turn everything into a scandal rather than saying Obama’s policies are wrongheaded—and rather than fixing their own image problems with minority, female, younger, and moderate voters—Republicans are focusing on attacking a guy whose name will never again appear on a ballot.
It is because the Obama hatred and Obama derangement syndrome — some Democrats (uh, oh here come The Political False Equivalency Police) suffered Bush Derangement Syndrome when GWB was in office –are reaffirmed in the broadcast, cable and new media conservative echo chamber.
The days when many Americans read a variety of opinions to lean more or decide have been replaced by a day when it’s about political reaffirmation — going to websites where you agree before you ready anything, watching cable show and listening to radio shows where you already agree with the host’s spin and (of course) rage. Many GOPers are still stuck in the echo chamber.
Cook also nails it on how this perceived by many Americans:
The current situation is reminding many folks of the impeachment controversy in 1998. Blinded by their hatred for President Clinton, Republicans made irrational decisions then, and they are making the same mistakes today.
Obama and the Dems may not have much to smile about these days.
But they can — and most likely are — doing some smiling over this.
P.S. The way our politics works, we may see some comments and get emails about how Cook is nothing but a liberal, in the tank for Obama, and The National Journal is a bastion of liberals. That’s the way our politics works. Ignore the message and go after the messenger. But there are perils in ignoring a messenger’s message.