Remember this ad from the Republican National Committee? ‘It’s Okay to Make a Change’. There is an underlying racist message within this ad that somewhat insidious. It basically says, “He tried (the President), you tried. It’s okay to make a change”.
The implication is that the President has been a failure and those of us who voted for him in 2008 made a mistake for voting for him. We are forgiven. It’s not a new message. The Republicans have been trying to paint the president as an ineffectual Jimmy Carter leader from the outset. It’s a strategy that has worked well previously. Carter was not actually a bad president, but perception is everything and the Republicans have shown through people like Karl Rove and Frank Luntz that they are the masters of creating perception whether the perception is accurate or not.
The attempt to negatively define President Obama is in the language that Republicans use and they are all on message. They either get the message through internal memos or from the ignoble and for all practical purposes, head of the Republican party, blowhard and bullhorn Rush Limbaugh.
In reality, President Obama has been one of the more effective leaders this nation has had since Lyndon Johnson. In an excellent article at the Washington Monthly, Paul Glastris writes:
Measured in sheer legislative tonnage, what Obama got done in his first two years is stunning. Health care reform. The takeover and turnaround of the auto industry. The biggest economic stimulus in history. Sweeping new regulations of Wall Street. A tough new set of consumer protections on the credit card industry. A vast expansion of national service. Net neutrality. The greatest increase in wilderness protection in fifteen years. A revolutionary reform to student aid. Signing the New START treaty with Russia. The ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
And all of this in the face of Republican obstructionism and not to mention getting us out of two wars and killing Osama bin Laden. Wikipedia has a compendium of notable presidential scholars and media experts, a series of polls taken amongst academics since 1948. Obama comes in at #14 While George W. Bush comes in at #34 out of 43 (technically we’ve had 44 presidents since Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms as the 22nd and 24th President). One could make the argument that President Obama should be exempt from this poll since he still has time left in office for that rating to change and historians often let a little time pass before rendering judgement.
Of course the whole point is moot since the President is going to serve a second term. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Republicans continue tarnish the President’s image for the rest of the term.