The Audacity of Normalcy
This is a good column from Dana Milbank:
The most extraordinary thing about his presidency so far may be how ordinary it is.
Obama came to power as an agent of change amid almost messianic expectations. But he's run into the usual problems. His health-care reform effort has been postponed because of Democratic infighting. Climate-change legislation is on a slow road, and an overhaul of financial regulations has been watered down by industry. Republicans are united in opposing virtually everything on his agenda.
Obama's poll ratings are identical to Bush's at the same point in his presidency. In the July Washington Post poll, 59 percent of Americans approve of the job the current president is doing, and 38 percent disapprove. Compare that with the July 2001 numbers for Bush, who had lost the popular vote and got the job because of a 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision. Support: 59 percent. Oppose: 38 percent.
In the days before his inauguration, 76 percent of the public thought Obama would "bring needed change to Washington." Now 62 percent think he has done so. And only 52 percent think Obama is a "new-style" politician, compared with 43 percent who consider him "old-style." That's not much better than Bill Clinton's numbers after a disastrous first six months.
It's not the result of any big mistake by Obama -- his unwise comments on the Henry Louis Gates arrest last week were a rare exception -- as much as his idealism colliding with this town's reality: The political system is broken and not easily changed.
It's also a reminder -- if George W. Bush hadn't decisively provided this -- that presidential mandates are meaningless. Clinton didn't win a majority, Bush didn't win a plurality, and Obama won both. But congressional Republicans haven't given Obama's priorities more support in deference to the public's judgment.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Ron Edmonds.
July 28, 2009; 2:58 PM ET
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