Sunday, June 5, 2011

President 9.1 Loses His Mystique.Obama Enters The Ordinary Mortal Phase

There comes a moment in a presidency, well for every president since JFK, who didn't live long enough to see his mystique eroded, when the glamor and whatever other special qualities which had adhered to the office holder wears off. Once gone it never returns, at least not to the same level as it was when newly elected.

For LBJ it was the Tet offensive, for Nixon, Watergate of course. For President Ford the Nixon pardon eroded the enormous goodwill that came to him as the post Watergate "healer". It seems hard to believe now but when Carter was first installed and seemed to be doing a good job and, most importantly was completing the healing process, there was a wave of good will towards the smiling, cardigan wearing outsider which reached its peak with his adept management of the Egypt /Israeli accord. This dissipated with the economic "malaise and he was finished by the Iran debacle.

Reagan had phenomenal support after a slow start which reached its peak with his 49 state re-election landslide. Although there is substantial good will towards the memory of Reagan now, his mystique was irrevocably damaged by the Iran/Contra affair. His successor G.H.W. Bush was never the recipient  of
mass adulation, but did garner respect which was dissipated by a recession he had no answer to, and his "read my lips ,no new taxes" flip flop marked the end of his administration.

Clinton and Lewinsky, Bush and war need no discussion as their initial support, and the reasons for the subsequent erosion of mystique, are obvious. Which brings us to the current office holder President Obama.

Few newly elected presidents have come into office with such a massive amount of goodwill and a +60% approval rating.Obama had this for a number of reasons,the distaste for his predecessor ,the hope and change message and of course the epoch making sea change in America with the election of the first Black president.

His poll ratings have declined steadily as the economy has not recovered.The various mistakes-the badly handled race situation culminating in the beer summit added to the decline, as did the health care bill, but it is the economy which has done the most damage. Whether his statement or not, President Obama is associated with the prediction that unemployment would not go over 8%. With the latest headline unemployment increasing to 9.1% and unlikely to come down dramatically  by the next election the bloom is well and truly off the rose.

Obama's statement on the current unemployment situation and the "headwinds' the economy  is facing as he called it seemed lacklustre. But more than that it was the address of an ordinary mortal. The days of the soaring speeches to adoring masses, the flowing cadences, the voice tinged with optimism is something well in the past.

Certainly the president can have inspired moments again, but the abrasive effect of the economy. which has rubbed off the lustre of the mystique has, with the latest unemployment figures, made Obama vulnerable in 2012 as he has to defend his record-and defend it as a totally different person from the one who took the oath of office in what seems like a dreamlike pageant of someone else a long time ago.

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