Business Times - 09 Jun 2010
Romance ends between Obama and Americans
By LEON HADAR
IF you want to get a sense of the depressing mood that has been overwhelming President Barack Obama and his aides these days, all you need to do is listen to the old hit sang by the musical duo of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield a while ago. When it comes to the fading love affair between the young and attractive White House occupant and the American people, the melancholic lyrics of The Righteous Brothers seem to say it all: 'You've lost that lovin' feeling.'
It does get sad for an American president when it gets funny; when he or she becomes the butt of the jokes of television late-night comedy shows, as Mr Obama has been in recent weeks. Comics has been mocking what is seen more and more as his somewhat lethargic response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and his ineffective handling of the never-ending crisis as well as of other domestic and foreign policy problems.
'At the White House, speaking last week, a rodent ran in front of Obama as he stood at the podium,' NBC's television show host and comedian Jay Leno told his large audience a few days ago, ending with the punch line: 'In fact, the rat was picked up on the microphone going: How do I get off this sinking ship?'
Ironically, a few days after Mr Obama's election victory last year, it was stand-up comedian Bill Maher who was expressing serious concerns that he and his colleagues in the entertainment business would probably find it difficult to make fun of such a serious and intelligent figure as Mr Obama. But Maher has no need to be too worried now.
In fact, when it comes to the Democratic President, Maher, who was considered to be one of Mr Obama's most enthusiastic boosters, is now sounding harsher than even some of Mr Obama's most severe critics in the Tea Party movement. Indeed, even among some of Mr Obama's allies in Washington, there is no more talk about the 'transformative' Obama presidency. The liberal Democratic presidential candidate who promised to use the power of the federal government to transform American politics and economics - contrasting his activist approach with the anti-government laissez faire principles of conservative Republicans - is now finding himself in a situation where the 24/7 media and online coverage tend to magnify the contrast between the expectation candidate Obama had created and the gloomy reality of the gulf disaster.
In fact, the Obama administration has neither the resources nor the power to end the oil spill. And the more Mr Obama tries to inject the government into the salvage operations in the gulf - for example, noting over the weekend that 17,500 National Guard troops and 1,900 vessels were assisting in the clean-up - the more he seems to be losing public support.
Indeed, each time he visits the gulf or makes a bombastic statement about his role in managing the crisis - television producers split the screen: Here is Mr Obama insisting that he was 'doing something' - and there is that poor oiled pelican standing off the coast of Louisiana who seems to be telling the president: 'You're doing nothing! Just look at me!'
Americans continue to blame British Petroleum for the spill, but according to a new Washington Post-ABC News opinion poll, more Americans are giving negative ratings to the Obama administration's reaction to the BP spill than poll respondents gave to the Bush administration's initial handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
But the anti-Obama mood in Washington and around the country goes beyond the unkindly assessment of his management of the oil spill and reflect the growing recognition at the White House and Capitol Hill that the sluggish economic recovery has done very little to cheer up the American electorate that continues to blame Washington and Wall Street for lost jobs, reduced incomes, weak home prices, and a sense that America is losing its global economic primacy to China and other emerging economies. While last Friday's job numbers suggested that the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 per cent from 9.9 per cent in May, they also made it clear that most of the added jobs were the result of the hiring for the 2010 census and that only 41,000 jobs were created by the private sector, less than the 218,000 jobs a month earlier.
This discouraging economic news coupled with rising concerns about the federal deficit and the perception of muddled American response to a series of foreign policy crises in the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East - against the backdrop of the brown pelicans in the gulf - suggest that it is unlikely that Mr Obama will 'bring back that lovin' feeling' before the November mid-term election. 'Cause it's gone . . . gone . . .'
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