"This Just Wasn’t a Big Priority."

In After Hope and Change, we contrast the high hopes for Obama with the reality of governing.  Before and after his reelection campaign, he repeatedly claimed to have ended the war in Iraq.  In January of this year, He compared ISIS to a jayvee team.

The New York Times reports:

By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.

But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.”

1 October 2014 ·

"Are You Better Off?"

In After Hope and Change, we discuss the impact of the economy on the election.  

At The Washington Post, Aaron Blake writes:

While discussing the 2014 election on Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” President Obama took a page out of Ronald Reagan’s book:

I can put my record against any leader around the world in terms of digging ourselves out of a terrible, un — almost unprecedented financial crisis. Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” In this case, are you better off than you were in six? And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office, but now we have to make…

Steve Kroft interjected, asking Obama whether that’s a good question to be asking — whether people actually feel the improvement. And Obama seemed to concede the point.

They don’t feel it," Obama said. "And the reason they don’t feel it is because incomes and wages are not going up.”

This Obama should probably have a chat with the Obama who brought up the whole “Are you better off” thing in the first place. Because, as an electoral strategy, it leaves something to be desired.

No recent polls have asked a direct “Are you better off” question, but a poll this month — from Fox News — offered a reasonable facsimile. The question was this: “Do you think the following statement is mostly true or mostly false? ‘By almost every measure, the American economy and American workers are better off now than they were in 2008.’”

The response: 59 percent said that statement is “mostly false,” while 37 percent said it was “mostly true.” It would seem — as Obama appeared to concede — that the American people really don’t feel better off than when he took office.

30 September 2014 ·

Grim Poll on the Economy and the American Dream

In After Hope and Change, we discuss the impact of the economy on the election.  Americans still are not happy

A release from the Public Religion Research Institute:

Despite the overall improvement in the U.S. economy, a majority of Americans have a decidedly gloomy outlook on their personal financial situation and the economic future of the country heading into the midterm elections, finds the 2014 American Values Survey. Nearly 6-in-10 Americans report being in only fair (37 percent) or poor financial shape (20 percent), while roughly 4-in-10 Americans say they are in excellent (7 percent) or good (34 percent) financial shape. This assessment represents a notable drop from 2010, when half of Americans indicated they were in excellent (9 percent) or good (41 percent) financial shape.

The fifth annual look at religion, values and public policy in America from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute finds that over the last year many Americans have experienced significant economic hardships, such as cutting back on meals to save money or having trouble paying a monthly bill. An Economic Insecurity Index (EII), developed by PRRI from six specific indicators of economic hardship, finds that approximately 4-in-10 Americans live in households with high (15 percent) or moderate (26 percent) levels of economic insecurity, while 6-in-10 Americans live in households with low (20 percent) or no (39 percent) reported economic insecurity.

“Despite the fact that there has been improvement in the economy since the Great Recession, approximately 4-in-10 Americans live in households experiencing high or moderate levels of economic insecurity,” noted Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. “Economic insecurity remains highly stratified by race, with nearly 6-in-10 black Americans living in households with high or moderate levels of economic insecurity.

These economic struggles have taken their toll on the public’s faith in the idea of the American dream. Roughly 4-in-10 (42 percent) Americans say that the American dream—that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead—still holds true today. Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans believe that the American dream once held true but does not anymore, and 7 percent say the American dream never held true. Black Americans are more pessimistic about the idea of the American dream than other racial groups. Less than one-third (31 percent) of black Americans say the American dream still holds true today, while half (50 percent) say it once held true but does not anymore, and 14 percent say it never held true.

28 September 2014 ·

Criticism from Right and Left

In After Hope and Changewe suggested that the president’s second term might be difficult.

At National Review Online, Mary Harned writes:

Sadly, and at last, a new report by the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed that the Obama administration has utterly failed to keep its promises to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions in insurance plans offered through exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And the administration accepts no responsibility for this failure.  

Given the ACA’s extensive list of shortcomings and controversies, the GAO report may elicit little more than a yawn from the media. Yet, the report is stunning in that it documents how the Obama administration has abandoned and even undermined the very promises that enabled the health-care legislation to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

When objections to taxpayer funding for abortion or abortion coverage nearly brought down the bill, it took an eleventh hour “compromise” — statutory language provided by Senator Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) and a promised executive order — to save the ACA. Now, over four years later, the GAO report confirms that the abortion deal was effectively meaningless

Elias Isquith writes at Salon:

At this point, I think many liberals who once waited for the president to shed his centrist camouflage have given up hope that they’ll once again see the guy they swooned for during the campaign. As president, at least, he is who he is; and there’s little reason to think he’ll change. For a man who so reveres Abraham Lincoln — whose greatest trait, according to the celebrated historian Eric Foner, was his “capacity to grow and change and evolve” — it’s hard not to agree that Obama’s consistency is a shame.

27 September 2014 ·

Base Problems

In After Hope and Change, we contrast the promises of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns  with the reality of governing. Liberals have noticed the gap.

Justin Sink writes at The Hill:

President Obama’s poll numbers are plummeting in deep-blue states such as New York and California, with core liberal supporters who have stuck with him through thick and thin beginning to sour on his leadership.

Obama’s decisions to punt on immigration reform, defend government surveillance and attack fighters in the Middle East have all alienated parts of the coalition that elected him twice to the White House.

The growing dissatisfaction on the left could limit Obama’s ability to help Democrats in the midterm elections, and could threaten his political legacy if — as happened with George W. Bush — his party begins to abandon him.

The slipping support for Obama is most evident in a pair of recent surveys of Democratic strongholds. Just 39 percent of registered New York voters surveyed in a Marist College poll said Obama is doing an “excellent” or “good” job, down six points from June and the lowest level in the state since the beginning of his presidency. 

Earlier this month, only 45 percent of California voters said they approved of how Obama was handling his job — a 5 percent decrease from June

26 September 2014 ·

Obama Keeps Morphing into Bush

In After Hope and Change, we look at the 2012 campaign, in which Barack Obama ran against Mitt Romney and the memory of George W. Bush. 

Josh Gerstein writes at Politico:

Less than two months after President Barack Obama’s administration called for repeal of the Congressional authorization for the 2002 Iraq war, he is formally citing the 12-year-old measure as a basis for newly expanded airstrikes against the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant.

Since June, Obama has been sending official war-powers notifications to Congress about the campaign he authorized against ISIL. Administration aides have repeatedly cited the 2001 war authorization against Al Qaeda and the Taliban as grounds for strikes in Iraq.

Some administration officials had indicated in background comments that Obama might invoke the Iraq war authorization if the bombing campaign spread to Syria, but he officially did so in a letter to Congress Tuesday. The authorization cited the measure only with a reference to its Public Law number, 107-243.

The administration’s embrace of the 2002 Iraq war authorization through this obscure citation is awkward because it paints the expanding anti-ISIL campaign as a successor to President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq 12 years ago. Last year at the United Nations General Assembly, Obama spoke of working “to end a decade of war” and cited the withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq as a part of that effort. On Wednesday he’ll address the General Assembly the day after having essentially extended that effort.

Carrie Budoff Brown writes at Politico:

President Barack Obama drafted most of Wednesday’s United Nations speech by himself, but it often sounded like he had a ghost writer: the predecessor he mocked.

Type Obama’s money phrase — the evocative description of the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant as a “network of death” — into thesaurus.com and George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” could very well come out, as many tweeters and former aides to the 43rd president noted.

Michael Gerson, a former White House speechwriter who helped compose Bush’s famous slogan, offered an explanation. “When dealing with an ideology that inspires beheadings and mass murder, the English language only offers so many words that carry sufficient moral weight,” Gerson said in an e-mail. “‘Evil’ and ‘death’ are two of them.”

Even so, the parallel was striking given Obama’s attitude toward Bush.

Obama didn’t just run against Bush’s foreign policy. He used to ridicule it. His rejection of the Bush worldview was so emphatic that it seemed to prompt the Nobel Peace Prize committee to give him the award just for getting elected.

So much for all that.

25 September 2014 ·

In After Hope and Change, we note that the president has expreienced problems with his public image.  A month ago, he went golfing right after condemning the Foley beheading.
UT San Diego reports:

On a day President Barack Obama talked about airstrikes in Syria and Iraq and the “dangerous consequences" of climate change, some critics and reporters focused instead on a military faux pas of his — a salute of two Marines with a cup in his hand.
The so-called “Starbucks salute,” as Twitter dubbed it, nabbed international news stories and attention on social media when video of the gesture was posted on the official White House Instagram account shortly after the president exited the helicopter Marine One in New York to speak about climate change.

IAfter Hope and Change, we note that the president has expreienced problems with his public image.  A month ago, he went golfing right after condemning the Foley beheading.

UT San Diego reports:

On a day President Barack Obama talked about airstrikes in Syria and Iraq and the “dangerous consequences" of climate change, some critics and reporters focused instead on a military faux pas of his — a salute of two Marines with a cup in his hand.

The so-called “Starbucks salute,” as Twitter dubbed it, nabbed international news stories and attention on social media when video of the gesture was posted on the official White House Instagram account shortly after the president exited the helicopter Marine One in New York to speak about climate change.

24 September 2014 ·

Say My Name

In After Hope and Changewe suggested that the president’s second term might be difficult.

Colby Itkowitz writes at The Washington Post:

When President Obama took office in 2009, congressional Democrats were euphoric. With control of the House, Senate and the White House, and high public approval for their new party standard bearer, Democrats eagerly embraced Obama and all the long-awaited policy initiatives he’d surely help them achieve.

As positive public opinion of Obama began to dip after his first year, the spread between how often Republicans and the Democrats invoked Obama grew wider. Put simply, the Democrats weren’t mentioning Obama by name nearly as much as Republicans.

The gap is particularly notable in the last year as seen in the chart above by the Sunlight Foundation, which measures how often any given word is spoken against all words in floor speeches and debates collected by the Congressional Record. Last fall, at the height of the government shutdown and the Obamacare rollout, Republicans were predictably discussing (bashing) Obama more.

But the trend has continued.

21 September 2014 ·

Liberals Notice the Promise-Reality Gap

In After Hope and Change, we contrast the promises of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns  with the reality of governing. Liberals have noticed the gap.

At Salon, Elias Isquith writes:

During his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised so much — and his supporters’ expectations were so unrealistic — that it can sometimes feel pat to note the many ways the Obama presidency has fallen short of its lofty expectations. Every politician over-promises, after all; and anyone swept up by a presidential campaign as idealistic as Obama’s in 2008 is bound to find themselves ultimately disappointed. But even if the trajectory of the president’s career is familiar, his first presidential campaign was so uniquely romantic, so willing to describe voting for Obama with the moralistic language of national self-redemption, that the consequences of his failure are not.

At The Washington Post, Katrina Vanden Heuvel writes:

President Obama is neither peacenik nor isolationist. He has disappointed those who trusted his promise to end the wars, stop the torture and rendition, close Guantanamo Bay, respect the Constitution, and curb the excesses of the national security state. But he did seek to limit our folly. He suggested a sensible organizing principle: “Don’t do stupid stuff.” It is tragic for him and for this country that he has succumbed to doing just that.

21 September 2014 ·

Obama Administration v. Transparency

In After Hope and Change, we discuss relations between President Obama and the media. 

At AP, Erin Madigan White reports on AP Washington Bureau Chief’s list of 8 ways in which the administration is limiting access to information:

1) As the United States ramps up its fight against Islamic militants, the public can’t see any of it. News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off — there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from.

2) The White House once fought to get cameramen, photographers and reporters into meetings the president had with foreign leaders overseas. That access has become much rarer. …

3) Guantanamo: The big important 9/11 trial is finally coming up. But we aren’t allowed to see most court filings in real time — even of nonclassified material. …

4) Information about Guantanamo that was routinely released under President George W. Bush is now kept secret. The military won’t release the number of prisoners on hunger strike or the number of assaults on guards. Photo and video coverage is virtually nonexistent.

5) Day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling. AP’s transportation reporter’s sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired. …

6) …Requests for information under FOIA have become slow and expensive. …

7) The administration uses FOIAs as a tip service to uncover what news organizations are pursuing. Requests are now routinely forwarded to political appointees. At the agency that oversees the new health care law, for example, political appointees now handlethe FOIA requests.

8) The administration is trying to control the information that state and local officials can give out. The FBI has directed local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology the police departments use to sweep up cellphone data. In some cases, federal officials have formally intervened in state open records cases, arguing for secrecy.

20 September 2014 ·

About This Blog

This blog supplements our book: James W. Ceaser, Andrew E. Busch, and John J. Pitney, Jr., After Hope and Change: the 2012 Elections and American Politics (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012).