Now that there are no more political steps, Obama's way of doing things are catching up with him. His constant reversals on torture and torture prosecutions, reversals on the release of torture photos, not having a clear plan on where to send the detainees once Gitmo was closed all unsettled a lot of people. But it has been his mishandling of health care reform that is now blowing up in his face.
His approval ratings have declined more sharply than any president in history and he came into the White House with more good will than any president in history. Of course why any news or polling organization was doing job approval polls a week after his inauguaration when he hadn't yet done a thing is another story. That's why I call it more good will than anything else. But that good will is quickly disappearing among Democrats and independents.
And while people have become more and more disenchanted with him for a number of reasons, this latest sharp drop in the polls can be directly attributable to his ineffective response to Republican lies and tactics on health care reform and more to the point, there is at least circumstantial evidence that the decline can be tied to his short lived attempt at dropping the public option as a political compromise with Republicans which resulted in almost immediate repudiation by the Democratic House leadership, Howard Dean and a number of Democratic House members.
Obama's testing the waters on dropping the public option has undoubtedly cost him both Democratic and independent votes while gaining him nothing with Republicans. And it has undermined both his creditiblity and the credibility of health care reform in general. After all, it wouldnt be unreasonable for people too busy to investigate the issues for themselves, to think that if Obama was ready to drop ithe public option, then maybe its not that important after all.
But the public option is not only the centerpiece of reform, less than 2 months ago a CBS poll showed 72% of Americans favored the public option and 57% were willing to pay higher taxes to get it. CNN had a similar poll with 66% favoring the public option and 60% willing to pay higher taxes to get it. And most recently a CNN Quick Vote showed 80% of the country believed health care was a fundamental American right not something that should be based on ability to pay.
That Obama has turned a proposition that 72% favored into negative numbers is an exercise in incompetence I thought we had seen the last of with George W. Bush. The only thing Obama has going for him so far compared to Bush is that so far his handling of things hasnt killed anyone yet.
The only thing that's changed since 3/4 of Americans favored and wanted a public option has been Republican attacks and disinformation that both Obama and the news media, who would rather report on a good fight than the truth, have been pathetically ineffective in refuting.
Obama has always tried to be all things to all people politically but he is seeing that approach isn't working anymore. The Democratic congress has taken the reins with health care and with the House Democrats saying there wont be a health care bill without the public option and Dick Durbin saying the Democrats will pass a health care bill with no Republican votes if they have to, Obama is on the verge of being irrelevant unless he decides to put on the brakes and join the fight.
Right now no one is looking at Obama as a leader. He gave no direction to congress on health care, had no plan of his own, laid down no markers, drew no lines in the sand. And signalling, even for a day that he would be willing to drop the public option made it worse. And the polls are reflecting it.
Health care will get passed with him or without him since its a congressional initiative and not one that came from Obama. But there is still time for Obama to become a leader and act like one. But not that much time.
If he doesnt take a stand and soon, then he may be headed for another LIncoln Moment. The one that goes " you cant fool all of the people all of the time".