Mark it on your calendars. It was in June 2009 that Barack Obama’s honeymoon officially ended. And to be more specific, it was this past week. Through some mysterious alchemy, this was the week that Bush’s economy became Obama’s, Bush’s wars became Obama’s, and the ups and downs of a real workaday relationship with the press also introduced Obama to a more accurate sense of what life was like for Bush and for all his other modern predecessors.
Last week was when Obama’s Presidential Approval Index, as measured by Rasmussen Reports, slipped into negative territory, although it has since recovered to +1 as of today’s report. Rasmussen focuses on “strongly approve” vs. “strongly disapprove.” I’m not sure whether this is more significant than measuring total approval vs. total disapproval, but it works against Obama, who in every poll (including Rasmussen’s) is firmly in positive territory on a total approval basis. (Near the end of the Bush Presidency, GWB logged in at -30 on Rasmussen’s strong-opinion index.)
I’m no Obama-hater, nor do I want him to “fail,” but I’ve been rooting for the end of the honeymoon since before the inauguration. The media’s near-deification of “The One” has been, at its worst, nothing less than appalling. Open-minded skepticism (as opposed to cynicism) is generally the right starting point for a journalist, and more of them are getting there, as seen in additional “honeymoon-over” coverage from around the web.
In Newsweek — among the worst Obama up-suckers, as parodied by National Review — Howard Fineman focuses this week on Obama’s evolving relationship with the White House press corps:
Bottom line: things are getting a little testy and are about to get more so. … [T]he problem is that they are too cute by half. They assume they can manipulate, manage and guide the media flawlessly. They think they can ride the wave all the way every time. And why shouldn’t they? Obama’s presidential campaign, after all, was perhaps the shrewdest, most disciplined message machine ever assembled in modern electoral politics. And the coverage, overall, was often close to hagiographic. The presidency is a harder course, and the risk is that, by over-managing, the president and his aides will damage their own credibility with the press and, more important, with the public.
Europeans famously preferred Obama to McCain last fall, but the honeymoon may be over on the other side of the pond as well. According to Der Spiegel, which James Lileks aptly called the world’s most German-sounding newspaper, America has gone from the “war president” to the “debt president”. The newspaper predicts a day of reckoning soon:
It is often said that the Chinese and the Japanese will buy [U.S.] government bonds. But the truth of the matter is that trust in the gravitas and reliability of the United States has suffered to such a great degree that fewer and fewer foreigners are purchasing its government bonds. That’s why the Federal Reserve is now buying securities that it has printed itself. The Fed’s balance sheet has more than doubled since 2007, making the US central bank one of the world’s fastest-growing companies. The purpose of this company, though, is to create money out of thin air. …
The German response to the excesses of the Bush era was refusal and obstinacy. Gerhard Schröder refused to go to war in Iraq with America and he organized a European resistance front the reached from Moscow to Paris.
Germany still hasn’t provided its response to the Obama administration’s fiscal policy excesses. Perhaps its time for Merkel to take her cue from Schröder.
Professor Julian Zelizer of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School:
If there is any new dip in the economy, the public will blame President Obama rather than President Bush. This is exactly what happened with the recession in 1937, which FDR’s opponents called the “Roosevelt Recession,” using the downturn to diminish the number of New Deal liberals in the House and Senate in 1938.
Quoting Jonah Goldberg, who’s quoting others:
Thanks to a few pointed questions from the press corps at a White House news conference, the long Obama captivity of the media is at an end. The Hotline, an inside-the-Beltway tip sheet, proclaimed June 23 “The Day the Love Ended.”
The New York Daily News’s Michael Goodwin celebrates the press corps’s ability to channel the mood of the country: “By peppering the President with forceful questions . . . and by challenging some of his slippery answers, reporters captured the changing tone in the country. Like the end of a real honeymoon, blind infatuation is giving way to a more accurate view of reality.”
“The press corps gets it,” Goodwin writes. “For Obama, the hard part begins now.”
I’ll end with two more passages from the Rothkopf essay I started with, which is titled “The definitive, final, once and for all, Obama’s honeymoon-is-over story.” He helpfully includes a mini-roundup of other publications and websites that have declared this week that the honeymoon is over:
Of course, people have been writing about the end of Obama’s honeymoon since the day he arrived in office. [Pikers! My Honeymoon-Over Watch started January 15! – KP.] But let me offer 10 solid pieces of evidence that it was over by this week. And I say this despite the unnerving fact that the Daily Kos seems to agree with my assessment…and shored up by the fact that NBC’s Chuck Todd, CNN’s Jack Cafferty, CQ, the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, and a host of other media outlets all seem to agree by having grappled with the issue…or, depending on how you look at it, succumbed to the conventional wisdom…in the past week or 10 days. Just goes to show: even the conventional wisdom is right every once in a while. …
The honeymoon is done. Time for a real life marriage. For better or for worse.
And for richer or poorer. Fortunately, America doesn’t marry its leaders “until death do us part.” And no, dammit, I’m not wishing anybody dead. I’m celebrating the fact that in three-plus years, our system will give us an opportunity for a course correction under new leadership, if enough Americans come to believe one is needed. In the meantime, Mr. Obama is my president, and on some level at least I wish him well.