As Barack and Michelle Obama prepare for their first Christmas in the White House, they might wonder why he has fallen so swiftly from being virtually a national icon to the unhappy status as among the least popular occupants of the Oval Office since modern polling began.
Regardless of what happens during the balance of his presidential tenure, Obama will always be a national treasure because he proved for all time that America truly is the place where any child, including one whose skin is not lily white, can be elected to the most powerful office on Earth.
But, just as Americans can elect whomever they choose to be their commander-in-chief, they can also decide they made a serious mistake in their choice. There is an especially bitter cast to that realization when it involves a recognition that they were lied to by somebody in whom they invested a historic trust.
To grasp the depth of the gathering disappointment with Obama, consider this fact: He is less popular today, not quite a year into his first term, than the battered and bruised George W. Bush was at the end of his eight years in office.
Here are the numbers: Scott Rasmussen's latest survey of likely voters -- the most reliable predictor of future election results -- finds 56 percent of those questioned either disapprove or strongly disapprove of Obama's performance, with 46 percent falling in the latter category. When Bush left office, 43 percent strongly disapproved of his performance.
In the Gallup Poll, only one in four Americans is satisfied with the direction in which Obama and the Democratic Congress are leading the country. Rasmussen's tracking finds Republicans with their biggest lead of the year in the generic congressional party balloting, leading Democrats by 44 percent to 36 percent. Only one in four Americans approves of the job Congress is doing, according to Gallup.
It's not hard to see why Obama and the Democratic Congress have sunk so low in the public esteem. Obama's signature issue, for example, is health care reform, and his solution is to create a government-run health care system.
Whatever the merits of Obama's proposed solution, health care reform is an odd choice for a signature issue. As Gallup puts it, "the perception that healthcare is the nation's top problem was fairly scarce during most of the decade, reaching a low point of 1% in October 2001 (as terrorism overrode other concerns)."
When Obama and congressional leaders turned their attention away from economic recovery to the campaign to enact Obamacare, "the public's mentioning of healthcare as the country's top problem began to rise again, reaching 26% by late August/early September," according to Gallup.
But now, "at decade's end, concerns over healthcare had drifted back to 16%."
In other words, the smartest guy in the room ran a slick presidential campaigns, capitalizing on public disgust with his predecessor by portraying himself as a tax cutter who would deliver "a net spending reduction," and benefiting from a generational yearning to make history by electing the country's first black president.
It was a brilliant strategy, but, once in office, Obama lost his touch. He and his advisers believed their own hubristic press releases about solving the nation's problems by doing what Washington Democrats have been doing since FDR -- throwing tax dollars and bureaucrats at them -- only doing it more spectacularly than ever before.
So they've done pretty much what I predicted they would do in a Feb. 11 column: Obama has spent 2009 "making himself the symbol of what's wrong with Washington rather than being the agent of change in Washington."
The title of that column was "Obama headed to a one-term strategy." He still is.
Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here