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William Bradley

William Bradley

Posted February 9, 2009 | 05:17 PM (EST)

Oh, About That "End" of the Obama Honeymoon ...



Does watching too much cable TV news turn your brain into gelatinous mush?

Is that wacky Alec Baldwin ad for Hulu about too much TV softening your brain like a ripe banana really true?

It's funny how not paying attention to the latest cable chatter gives you a very different perspective on politics. After a couple of years of paying non-stop attention to all aspects of our hyperactive news flow while covering the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, I decided to check out of cable news for the last week or two. I just read polls, selected news stories and reports, and talked to experts about what was going on. With glitches here and there, it seemed Barack Obama was doing well. Most voters certainly thought highly of him.

Not that I didn't know what was going on with the cable nets. I can't stop doing a little channel surfing, and it was clear that the cable chatters were talking themselves into a tizzy. Obama, they said, was flopping, his presidential honeymoon long since a thing of the past.


President Barack Obama zeroed in on the economic crisis in his weekend video/radio address.

Obama has been president now for 20 days. He's actually gotten some stuff done already, and is close to passing what looks like the beginnings of a new New Deal. And as for his honeymoon being over, maybe so inside the yaposphere, but outside it, eh, not so much.

Tomorrow, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a key backer of John McCain's Republican presidential primary campaign, will join President Barack Obama at his town hall meeting in Myers, Florida. Crist and several other major Republican governors, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed a letter last week backing Obama on his economic revival program.

Later, a small group of Republican governors mainly from the Deep South came out against the program. They actually got more media coverage. Go figure.

The polls? Well, they're good. Actually, very good. They've been good right along, while Obama's presidency was supposedly collapsing.

The brand-new Gallup Poll shows Barack Obama with a 66% job approval rating. Only 21% disapprove.

Obama is also rated much higher than his Republican opponents on the economic issue. Despite a lot of pounding in recent days, his economic recovery program has a wide margin of popular support.

While conservatives have poked a few holes in the package - thanks in no small measure to some congressional Democrats pinning a kick me sign to it with a number of add-ons that are easy to make fun of - Obama has a whopping 67% approval rating on the economic stimulus while congressional Republicans have only a 31% approval on the issue.


President Barack Obama at his town hall meeting today in Elkhart, Indiana.

Other credible polls say much the same thing. Even the Republican Rasmussen poll has Obama's approval very high.

It looks like the Senate will adopt a version of Obama's economic recovery program early this week, which then must be reconciled with the version that sailed through the House of Representatives late last month. Obama wants that reconciliation done swiftly.

In future, although in reality this is all happening very quickly, since the guy was inaugurated exactly 20 days ago, Obama and company might want to avoid letting entrenched congressmembers write too much of their legislation. That provided some easy, though relatively minor, targets for their opposition and the ADD media culture to chew on throughout the day. But in the end, the chatter won't matter.

Has Obama and his team made some other mistakes? Sure. Mistakes always happen. Two things matter about that. Are you moving in the right direction, especially in contrast to your opposition? And do you make needed adjustments?

There have been a couple of misfiring appointments. And Obama may have been too enamored of bipartisanship, for example.

That is to say, too enamored of political bipartisanship, not rhetorical bipartisanship. The non-hyperpartisan public likes the idea of bipartisanship. It would certainly be a good thing if everybody worked together.


President Barack Obama told the Democratic congressional retreat Friday night in Virginia that Republicans are forgetting that their ideas have been rejected.

But it's not much of a surprise that only a few Republicans will play along in a substantive way. It would be nice to think that John McCain, after his unfortunately erratic performance on economic policy in the campaign, would have learned that tax cuts uber alles is not a credible approach. He hasn't yet.

What a lot of folks chattering away on the tube have apparently forgotten is that the Republicans got killed in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

They lost 52 seats in the House of Representatives and 14 seats in the U.S. Senate.

Those big defeats carved away a lot of relatively moderate Republicans, especially in the House, where gerrymandered districts drawn for safe incumbencies are the order of the day in both parties. What's left for the Republicans is a more dominant hard right-wing core.

So, knowing that, is it a mistake to call for bipartisanship, knowing that all but a few Republicans won't really respond because they are inherently incapable of responding? Of course not. To the public, if not the pundits, it makes the Republicans look worse. And that is what the polls show.


Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claimed that Obama is ushering in a "Communist" regime. With children's health insurance and capping executive pay in financial outfits in any new government bail-out to $500,000 a year.

Is it a mistake to prod Rush Limbaugh into further exercising his massive ego? Maybe to a pundit who wants to get promoted by Limbaugh's strange running mate, Matt Drudge. But not for the public, most of which does not like Limbaugh and regards him as an errant extremist.

Where Obama may have made a mistake is in being too substantively accommodating -- say, on tax cuts, which are a less efficient way of stimulating the economy than infrastructure development -- with people who are basically not going to support him except in the event of an extraterrestrial invasion.

And even then, some of these folks would balk, claiming that Obama himself was the aliens' advance guard. Or that without Guantanamo Bay there is no way to win.

But those are the details. In the overall, Obama is doing pretty darn well.

You can check things out during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.