A New Year brings the promise of new beginnings, and the hope for positive change buoys the spirits of many as the calendar dawns on a new day.
But, for President Barack Obama and his administration, putting a rough (to put it mildly) 2013 in the rearview mirror in favor of smoother sailing in 2014 may be much easier said than done.
Late last week, Clarus Research Group reported that the president’s average approval rating was sitting at 41 percent, lower than that of George W. Bush (43 percent), Bill Clinton (59 percent), and Ronald Reagan (64 percent) at this point in their presidencies.
A majority (51 percent) do not believe that the President has strong leadership qualities, and an even greater number (55 percent) do not believe this administration has been competent in running the government.
Given the historical standard of “competence” in Washington, that number is even more alarming. And, we expect that these numbers are likely to get worse with tomorrow’s release of the tell-all book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Washington has been abuzz since the middle of last week with reports about and excerpts from Mr. Gates’ new book.
We will reserve detailed comment on the book until we have a chance to take it all in, but the initial reports certainly do not bode well for the White House.
Writing for The Washington Post last week, Bob Woodward recapped some of the bombshell accusations in Mr. Gates’ tome. Mr. Woodward notes that Gates “unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war,” and that “Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan.”
And in what strikes us as a significant understatement, the veteran Washington insider writes that “It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president.”
As we noted earlier, we will address the substance of the book at a later time, but the word “antagonistic” in Mr. Woodward’s description jumped out at us. Yes, this book may present such a picture of the Obama administration, but this White House seems to have made a cottage industry out of being arrogant, which likely invites such an approach.
Let’s look back at the way that Obamacare has been force fed to the American people. The failed rollout, the false promises (“If you like your plan…), and the myriad changes to the law at the whim of the president should not inspire confidence in or loyalty to this administration. And the polling numbers reflect that the American people feel that way.
Accountability is also not one of the strong suits for the Obama White House. To this day, no one has been held accountable for the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the tragic deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, or the absolute implosion of the Obamacare rollout; all of these fiascos occurred on Mr. Obama’s watch — though many are now question whether he was actually watching (on average, 50 percent of Americans don’t think he is paying enough attention to what his administration is doing, according to Clarus).
The White House has specialized in not answering tough questions about any of these issues, choosing often to question the motives of the questioners instead.
So, 2014 begins with Mr. Gates’ book, which may jeopardize the Teflon walls around this president. To this point, nothing else has stuck, but we get the feeling that these revelations (and what they symbolize about business as usual in this White House), combined with the many shoes left to drop in the Obamacare rollout, might make this winter rougher for the Obama administration than the recent impact of the polar vortex across the country.