In the Bush years, New York Times columnists like Frank Rich mocked the “fictional realities” being sold by the White House. Now in the Obama years, it’s Times columnists who are struggling to sell an unpopular president.
In his Monday cheerleading column titled "Yes He Could," leftist economist Paul Krugman complained that liberals are listening too hard to the “prevailing media narrative” of a “troubled if not failed” presidency. Nonsense, says Krugman. Everything’s coming up roses, including Obamacare.
Several times in recent weeks I’ve found myself in conversations with liberals who shake their heads sadly and express their disappointment with President Obama. Why? I suspect that they’re being influenced, often without realizing it, by the prevailing media narrative.
The truth is that these days much of the commentary you see on the Obama administration — and a lot of the reporting too — emphasizes the negative: the contrast between the extravagant hopes of 2008 and the prosaic realities of political trench warfare, the troubles at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the mess in Iraq, and so on. The accepted thing, it seems, is to portray Mr. Obama as floundering, his presidency as troubled if not failed.
But this is all wrong. You should judge leaders by their achievements, not their press, and in terms of policy substance Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year. In fact, there’s a very good chance that 2014 will go down in the record books as one of those years when America took a major turn in the right direction.
First, health reform is now a reality — and despite a shambolic start, it’s looking like a big success story.
He also cited the new crackdown on power-plant emissions, "by far the most important environmental initiative since the Clean Air Act. I’d add that this is an issue on which Mr. Obama is showing some real passion."
And financial reform, "although it’s much weaker than it should have been, is real — just ask all those Wall Street types who, enraged by the new limits on their wheeling and dealing, have turned their backs on the Democrats. Put it all together, and Mr. Obama is looking like a very consequential president indeed."
So “in his second term he is making good on the promise of real change for the better. So why all the bad press?”
Part of the answer may be Mr. Obama’s relatively low approval rating. But this mainly reflects political polarization — strong approval from Democrats but universal opposition from Republicans — which is more a sign of the times than a problem with the president. Anyway, you’re supposed to judge presidents by what they do, not by fickle public opinion.
The last sentence gives away that the polls aren't good. Krugman is trying to ignore Obama's approval rating among independents, which the last Washington Post poll found was 37 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove.