Obama's in Trouble, but it's with the Democrats, His Pals in the News Media and Maybe Hillary Clinton, Too

Donald Lambro

2/28/2014 12:01:00 AM - Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - It is common knowledge that Barack Obama's presidency is becoming increasingly unpopular. But did you know that much of the criticism is now starting to come from his own supporters?

It's one thing for Obama to see his job approval polls slumping into the low 40s and his job disapproval scores climbing to 54 percent, according to the latest Gallup Poll surveys. It's quite another thing entirely when his longtime allies and most ardent cheerleaders are criticizing the way he's governed, or not governed, for that matter.

CBS News reported Wednesday that nearly 60 percent of Americans it polled "say they are disappointed" in his presidency. Notably, 40 percent of independents said they were "very disappointed" and a stunning one-fourth of the Democrats that were surveyed "express at least some disappointment."

You really know that things are going from bad to worse when your friends begin deserting you.

Some of the criticism and distancing is coming from embattled Democrats on Capitol Hill who are no longer embracing Obamacare the way they used to, or damning it with faint praise. Others are running away from the health care law altogether, and do not want to appear with him out on the campaign trail in what may be shaping up to be a blow-out election year for his party.

Even some of his many allies in the major news media have been pounding Obama for his wimpy, risk-adverse, over-politicized presidency. The complaints range from his failed economic policies to Obamacare to his incompetent handling of foreign affairs.

Washington Post columnist Fred Hiatt took Obama to task this week in a column whose headline asked, "What change does Obama believe in?"

For example, take Social Security's shaky finances, he says. One of fixes would require a recalculation of its cost-of-living formula, and Obama spoke boldly in 2009 that "we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security."

"I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans," Obama said in 2010. Yeah, sure.

But instead of grappling with a thorny problem that now threatens America's solvency, he has decided "to drop the [COLA] reform from his proposed budget," Hiatt said.

That decision to back away from his bluff and bluster promise, Hiatt said, raised "a bigger question: What does he believe in enough to really fight for?"

He has said that he "refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action" in Syria, but, as Hiatt noted, he remains a bystander as Bashar al- Assad goes about exterminating thousands of his fellow citizens to crush a rebellion against his brutal dictatorship.

Syria, Obama said last September, was "someone else's war."

On issue after he issue, he made big promises, only to walk away from one challenge after another. "You wonder whether Obama will wake up...and try to remember what, exactly, he came here to accomplish," Hiatt writes.

One of Obama's earliest fans was the Post's liberal columnist E. J. Dionne Jr., who has been one his biggest defenders and excuse-makers.

But now Dionne is criticizing Obama for being too timid and offering only small ideas in the face of big problems. "The real issue isn't that Obama is trying to do too much. It's that he needs to think bigger," Dionne wrote in a recent column.

One of the disappointments of Obama's time in office is his failure to lead a thoroughgoing reform in the way the federal government works," and to "bring fresh talent to its ranks," he wrote. "Alas, Obama didn't really try," he added.

But Obama likes big spending government just the way it is, except he wants to make it bigger, much bigger and much more costly. As for improving the way government works, he has utterly zero interest in that. His botched implementation of Obamacare is Exhibit A on that score.

But Dionne acknowledges only that the botched rollout of Obamacare showed the government's "IT acquisition needs radical improvement." Is he serious? The law itself needs to be repealed and replaced with a market-oriented alternative that is business-friendly and doesn't kill jobs.

Even Hillary Clinton is suggesting that key parts of the law's mandates should be reworked. In a speech before a health management group in Orlando, it was reported that Clinton "endorsed efforts to change some provisions that have become problematic," including the law's unpopular business mandate to cover all full-time employees.

"I would be the first to say if things aren't working, then we need...to come together and make evidence-based changes," she told a health care industry conference.

Is Hillary deserting Obamacare's sinking ship? Too early to tell, but she's listening to Democratic lawmakers across the country who are telling her the unpopular law is killing them politically.

One of them is Miami Congressman Joe Garcia, who voted for Obamacare, and is getting battered by his Republican challenger.

Garcia is running a desperate TV ad in his district that a Miami Herald blogger says is an attempt to insulate "him against claims he's an Obamacare apologist." Here's part of the text of his ad:

"Joe Garcia is working to fix Obamacare. He voted to let you keep your existing health plan and took the White House to task for the disastrous healthcare website."

Doesn't sound like Garcia has a warm and comfy feeling about Obamacare, does it? Not when he's on the GOP's most endangered species list.

By the way, this unusually defensive ad, which certainly isn't a full embrace Obama's signature achievement, was paid for by the Democrats' House Majority PAC. Ouch.

Obama seems to see the handwriting on the wall that his party may be in for yet another shellacking in the 2014 midterm elections. He certainly sounded defensive about the Democrats' prospects at a Democratic Governors Association fundraiser last week.

"We know how to win national elections, but all too often it's during these midterms where we end up getting ourselves into trouble," he said.

He's in trouble alright, with his disappointed supporters and his party's deeply dispirited base who are unhappy with his performance and have begun to turn on him.