There is a simple explanation for President Obama's dismal approval ratings, but ABC's George Stephanopoulos fails to comprehend it. Appearing on the October 13 "O'Reilly Factor," the former Clinton adviser peddled multiple theories to explain Obama's unpopularity, but neglected to consider the possibility that the president has simply failed to connect with the general public.
"As far as the problem with Democrats, they're upset about the economy, but he has also got a problem with liberals, who wish he would have done more on issues like gays in the military, on health care, on other issues," asserted Stephanopoulos.
The argument that Obama's approval rating is suffering because his policies have not been liberal enough shows just how disconnected this political flak-turned-journalist is with the public he ostensibly serves. Obama's approval rating is not hovering around 43 percent, as the latest Reuters poll indicates, because liberal activists, who represent a small percentage of the population, have been abandoning the president in droves. Rather, Obama is floundering because his support among independents and swing-voters has evaporated. In that same poll, according to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, Obama has a 33 percent approval rating among Ohio voters.
Descending further into an abyss of absurdity, Stephanopoulos claimed that Obama is also struggling because he "doesn't love the theater of politics." In Stephanopolous's warped sense of reality, the president who maligned Fox News as "destructive for the long-term growth" of America and criticized Republican strategist Karl Rove for raising money to defeat Democrats in the midterm election somehow doesn't enjoy sparring with his political adversaries.
Later in the segment, the former "This Week" anchor finally made a correct observation, but his analysis missed the point: "I think the third thing that really is causing the trouble right now is that unrealistic expectations at the beginning." While few would deny that Obama made many promises he simply could not keep, the "Good Morning America" co-host could not bring himself to actually admonish the president for setting the bar too high. "He was probably higher than he ought to have been," were the most critical words Stephanopoulos could muster for a politician who convinced millions of Americans he was a moderate before presiding over one of the most dramatic expansions of government in the country's history.
Driving the point home, O'Reilly batted down Stephanopoulos's contention that Obama's beleaguered presidency resembles the challenges the Reagan administration faced during the '81-'82 recession: "You're telling me culturally that Reagan had a separation from the folks the way that Obama has now?" asked an incredulous O'Reilly. "You're crazy."
A full transcript of the segment can be found below:
October 13, 2010
8:12 P.M. EDT
BILL O'REILLY: "Impact Segment" tonight. New Reuters poll is more bad news for President Obama, 43 percent of Americans now approve of the president's job performance; 53 percent disapprove. That is the lowest approval number, the Reuters poll has ever reported. Joining us now to react, one of the stars of ABC's "Good Morning America," George Stephanopoulos. So, we all know about the economy and how that's hurting Mr. Obama and the Democrats in general, but there's got to be more to this. Because it looks like it's taken on a life of its own now. In the Reuters poll, it shows that Democrats, people who are in the party are now turning a little bit away from the president. So, there's got to be something more.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, host of ABC's "Good Morning America": The Democrats are turning away mostly, because of the economy. And, remember, the president is still at a higher place than Bill Clinton was at this point in his term. Ronald Reagan and all of their, you know, major political institutions. So, you know, he's not in a death row right now. As far as the problem with Democrats, they're upset about the economy, but he has also got a problem with liberals, who wish he would have done more on issues like gays in the military on health care, on other issues. They feel he hasn't been exactly the liberal hope they he wanted. I think on the other hand, part of the reason the president is being held back, although it's mostly the economy is because he went forward with health care. I think for a lot of independents and Republicans that kind of sealed in this Big Government image that he's been trying to fight. I think something else going on is, you know, the president doesn't love the theater of politics. And, I think he's paid a price for that. Something as small as – and I totally get why he would want to pray in private but the fact that he hasn't gone publicly to church very much over the course –
O'REILLY: Well, I think now you're getting closer, with all due respect. I think you're getting closer to really beside the economy what the president's problem is. That is that the folks aren't connecting with him any longer, and you say he's not in a spiral, he is. When your inauguration poll stands at 70 percent approval, 70 percent of the country is wishing you well, wants you to do well and now your down at 40 after less than two years. That's a 30 –
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, there's 10 percent unemployment. But, you're on to something there, I think. I think the third thing that really is causing the trouble right now is that unrealistic expectations at the beginning. He was probably higher than he ought to have been.
O'REILLY: Yes, he's a rock star and everybody wanted a hit after hit after hit.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, they were, you know, promising something that he could never have delivered on. And, that was this whole promise of fixing Washington, bringing the parties together.
O'REILLY: But, you can work towards that. Look, the problem now, George, as I see it here. There are two problems as I see it. Number one, a lot of people say, "Oh, well, Reagan was like this and Clinton" – and, that's true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, that's true.
O'REILLY: Yes, but here's the deal. Reagan, number one, didn't lose the folks. Folks still liked him, but they were unsure about his leadership.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at the time. Not in October of 1982.
O'REILLY: You're telling me culturally that Reagan had a separation from the folks the way that Obama has now? You're crazy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He had separation from Democrats at that time, the way that Obama is having trouble. Where he had less of a problem, where I would agree with you, I think Reagan always had his base.
O'REILLY: Yes, but it was more than that. When you go to a state like Ohio, and it's 33 percent approval rating for President Obama, you're done. That's a bellwether state. That's the state where regular folks say, "Look, we've lost confidence in his leadership." That's number one.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what it is today.
O'REILLY: They've lost confidence. Okay. And, number two is – number two, and this is really going to be very difficult for President Obama to overcome. If it is Armageddon on November 2nd, and he loses both houses, which could happen, his power is gone. He's gone.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well his legislative power is gone, but again, you know, Bill Clinton lost both houses of congress in 1994 and ended up being a boon, ended up helping him get re- elected.
O'REILLY: Different time, though.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I agree with that.
O'REILLY: Different time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which gets back to the fundamental point. If what happened in 1995 or 1996, the economy roars back or in 1983 and 1984, the economy roars back, Barack Obama is going to be fine.