As the president has continued to insist that he wants bipartisan input on health care reform, public polling finds that more Americans today think he is doing a poorer job listening to alternative viewpoints than he was three months ago.
In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released late Wednesday evening, respondents were asked whether President Obama had shown a willingness "to work with people whose viewpoints are different from his own."
Thirty-two percent gave Obama a "very good rating" on this front, a ten percentage point drop from April 2009. Meanwhile, 21 percent of respondents gave Obama a "very poor rating" for his willingness to work with the opposition, compared to the 12 percent who gave him a "very poor rating" three months ago.
The numbers are troubling for the White House, which has consistently presented itself as willing to extend a hand, or at least an ear, to the suggestions of the opposition. For progressives, the NBC/WSJ findings will likely be treated as an affirmation of their belief that the president is wasting his time -- and hurting legislative priorities -- by trying to forge bipartisan consensus on health care.
Asked to explain how the president could be seen as more a partisan figure even as he continued to insist that Republicans have a role at the table in the health care debate, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs jokingly blamed the media.
After a bit of laughter, the press secretary largely skirted the question, stressing that the White House has and would continue to seek the help of the GOP in crafting health care legislation.
"When it's come to dealing with particularly the Finance Committee... I think the President has spent a lot of time reaching out to Republicans on the committee, calling them -- and Democrats, quite frankly, calling them regularly about hoping to make progress," Gibbs said, in response to a question by the Huffington Post. "I think the President believes if you look at the [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee, I think that's a good example of -- despite the fact, as we've covered, that there weren't Republicans that supported the vote to move the bill out of committee, you did have more than 160 amendments offered by Republicans to improve that bill accepted by Democrats on that committee. The president believes that, and will continue to work with anybody that's interested in reforming health care to meet the principles that he's outlined."