On my book “tour” to promote my new book, “The Great Destroyer,” hosts keep asking me to explain how President Obama can maintain high personal approval ratings when his policies are unpopular and his record is abysmal.
I first want to challenge the underlying assumption. I don’t believe that President Obama is as well-liked or, at this point, even as likable as he is reputed to be. He hasn’t behaved in office as a person most would consider “likable.”
Assuming these polls are being accurately reported, I tend to think that many people are responding favorably to the question of whether they like Obama personally largely because the media narrative has been and remains that he is likable.
When the media keep pounding us with the notion that he is likable, people may fear they are revealing their own personal failings if they confess that they aren’t particularly fond of him. It could make them look out of step or expose them as negative people.
People are much likelier to be candid in the privacy of the polling booth, but even if I’m wrong about this, I don’t believe that people will allow their personal fondness for Obama to outweigh their assessment of the disastrous consequences of his policies, which are far more relevant to their lives and to their children’s future than their personal opinion of his likability.
So what about his behavior and his demeanor supports the media narrative that he is eminently likable?
From the outset, the media have portrayed Obama as a uniter, a post-partisan, a man who wants to bring us together as one as he ushers in his new era of hope and change for America. Even after more than a year of his intentionally divisive and hyper-partisan behavior, they were depicting him as a man committed to conciliation and compromise.
In fact, at one point, as I chronicle in my book, the media reported that Obama and his advisers had made a conscious decision to change their approach to dealing with Republicans. Henceforth, Obama would be more combative, be more aggressive, be more partisan and take his case to the American people in stark terms, showing the dangerous contrast between his policies and those of Republicans.
This was after Obama had already engaged in incredibly divisive behavior by behaving as a bully toward his opponents and others he routinely singled out for vilification and treating Republicans as though they were not entitled to a seat at the table of government.
Obama’s behavior has been consistently unpresidential. His gross narcissism has been on display from the outset; he has refused to accept responsibility for his policies; he has blamed President George W. Bush for his own economic policies; he has accused Republicans of being hostage takers, of wanting a small America and dirtier air and water, of having no compassion for the poor and disabled, of wanting to wipe out basic protections for people, and of refusing to rebuild our infrastructure because they don’t care about our crumbling roads and bridges.
Instead of bringing Americans together in a spirit of unity and harmony, he has divided us through the aggressive exploitation of identity politics, appealing to us and pitting us against one another according to groups and categories — race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity and economic class. He has made specific overt appeals to Latino and black voters to support him on the basis of their race and told them that Republicans do not have their best interests in mind. He has demonized oil companies, private jet owners, insurers, financial institutions and people who earn substantially more money than other Americans. He has fomented a war between labor and management.
He has continued to apologize for and criticize America and told foreigners on foreign soil that Americans distrust Islam and think of Indians as people in call centers, and he has told military members at a White House barbecue that the Framers were men of property and wealth.
While he has wagged his finger at corporate America, jet owners and Republicans for their greed and profligacy, he has gallivanted around the world and the nation spending millions of taxpayer dollars on his own campaigns and on lavish vacations, having sent his wife and dog, respectively, on separate jets on occasion.
For these and many other reasons, I’m not convinced Obama is perceived as particularly likable by the American people any longer, but even if he is, I am sure that any personal fondness people may have for him will not blind them to his disastrous record, which is driving America inexorably toward financial bankruptcy.
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