President Obama’s poll numbers continue to plummet, a sign that his second-term doldrums may worsen, especially in the absence of a single legislative accomplishment. The Quinnipiac poll found him underwater on his approval rating (44 to 48 percent) and sagging in his handling of foreign policy (40 to 52 percent), his worst mark in this poll to date. His domestic ratings on immigration (41 to 50 percent) and the economy (41 to 55 percent) are also lousy.
Most striking, Obama’s standing with independent voters has plummeted. “In April, the president’s overall 49-45 approval rating included a 44-46 percent verdict from independent voters. Now he gets a negative 36-53 percent rating from the same group.”
None of this is surprising, given that Obama has not accomplished anything of note in this term, was embarrassed by the inability to roll out Obamacare in a timely fashion and got caught exaggerating the impact of the sequester. Most ominous for him — since second-term presidents often find refuge in foreign policy achievements — is his foreign policy floundering. Voters are right to perceive that things have gone steadily downhill. He makes an occasional speech (e.g., in Berlin on unilateral disarmament, to proclaim a red line), but his words evaporate into thin air; there is no policy to carry them out.
Meanwhile, events swirl around him. His foreign policy apparatus is entirely reactive and designed, it seems, to avoid conflict at any cost. The result is that aggressive foes bat us around, creating the appearance of weakness. This is by design, I suppose, since the president has tried his best to deemphasize American unilateral action, the projection of hard power and the need to sublimate international decision-making to bodies like the United Nations. The results, predictably, are not pretty.
His intention to go out campaigning for immigration reform is reminiscent of many other road trips designed to whip up partisan anger against the Republicans. In none of these (guns, taxes, the sequester) did he actually change public opinion or affect legislation. He could give a dozen more pep talks on Obamacare, and it would not make the bill more popular or clam the fury over his piecemeal implementation of a law for which he has had years to prepare.
Meanwhile, the economy is running on fumes. The Wall Street Journal reports: “The nation’s economic growth pace may have fallen below 1% in the second quarter, several economists said Wednesday, after wholesalers’ inventories declined in May.”
The good news is that it is hard to conceive that the president will have the political oomph to pass any more destructive legislation. A weak and inept Obama may bring smiles to the faces of economic decision-makers at home and to Republicans, but that’s deeply troubling when it comes to national security. To a greater degree than we’ve seen since Obama took office, the United States’ foes and allies can see that he and his aides are in over their heads.