President Obama’s poll numbers have been falling, which is to be expected in difficult economic times. It was inevitable that the President’s approval ratings would ebb from his honeymoon period after the election. Simply put: President Obama could not live up to the image that Candidate Obama created. Who could? But there is more behind the change in attitude toward the President than the laws of gravity. Americans clearly discouraged about partisanship and divisiveness, were hoping for a leader who would be the uniter Candidate Obama pledged he would be. Instead, it appears that Washington and partisanship are more divided than ever and the President is engaging in intentional misleading language for the direct purpose of legislative gain.
As I listened to the President’s health-care address to Congress, I was initially encouraged that the White House was going to work in a bipartisan fashion and introduce a bill that addressed the concerns of both sides of the debate. He specifically called to incorporate “...the best ideas of both parties.”
As his speech went on, however, I realized that President Obama was not talking about introducing a new bill, but rather, his passionate but carefully worded oration was an extremely misleading representation of HR 3200. Examples of this deceptive language include statements about no federal funding of abortion and no coverage for illegal immigrants. The President was correct in his assertions that the wording of the legislation does not specifically allow for the provisions of abortions or illegals, however, wording to specifically eliminate these provisions was removed in committee.
This delusive rhetoric creates the impression that the President is not genuine or trustful. These are critical commodities for a President, especially so early in his term.
Perhaps the biggest area of concern for this administration is its credibility on fiscal responsibility. Candidate Obama pledged to go line-by-line through the budget and eliminate waste and inefficiencies. Indeed, the President intends to pay for much of health care reform by eliminating waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. The public becomes skeptical of such overly-optimistic savings, and it begs the question why we are not pursuing these savings now? Americans are seeing the federal deficit skyrocket and they are concerned about wasteful spending. Even though Obama has spoken of fiscal discipline, thus far he has let Congress write legislation which continues the practice of debt financing and the funding of special interest waste. The President must show leadership in legislation and fiscal restraint rather than outsource these responsibilities to Congress, which has a proven lack of discipline.
The President’s greatest asset -- and his albatross -- are his oratory skills. His ability to inspire people is a gift. However, it also holds him to the standard he is setting for himself and for others. If the American people believe his speeches are not genuine nor his word binding, he runs the risk of alienation and dismissal. His has inspired millions of young people previously skeptical or ambivalent to the political process. Now, many of these young people are losing faith as they see another smooth-talking politician long on rhetoric, but short on substance.
All is not lost for the President. In order for him to regain some of his popular support, and perhaps save his Presidency, he only needs to live to the standard he has set and govern to the promises he has made.