2014 – President Obama’s Year of Bad Optics
President Barack Obama closes out 2014 with an approval rating of 48%, a far cry from the 67% approval rating he had when he assumed the presidency on January 20, 2009. From all accounts, it has been the year of bad pictures and sound bites for President Obama. Here is a breakdown of some of the key moments.
ISIS – In August, President Obama expressed his condolences from the golf course for the beheading of journalist James Foley at the hands of ISIS. While presidents certainly have a right to take vacation, couldn’t he have found a more somber setting from which to make his official remarks? Of course, this image was not only disrespectful to the family of James Foley, but it also once again reminded the public of the President’s unwillingness to call a terrorist a terrorist.
The Midterm Elections – The midterm election results were a real referendum on President Obama’s presidency with the GOP retaking control of the Senate by winning an unprecedented nine Senate seats from the Democratic party and transferring the gavel of power from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republicans also took four gubernatorial seats and ten House of Representative seats from the Democrats. Furthermore, in the build up to Election Day, President Obama had to suffer the indignity of Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates distancing themselves from him like he was political poison. Who can forget Democratic Senate candidate Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire saying “I don’t think it makes sense for the president to come to New Hampshire right now.” Apparently, she made the right call and won the election. Also, let’s not forget the boos he received while campaigning in Wisconsin for Mary Burke, Democratic challenger to Governor Scott Walker. Who would ever thought that inviting an incumbent president on the stump circuit would be a regrettable decision?
The Executive Order– In November, President Obama announced his plans to grant amnesty to 4.5 million illegal immigrants. This action had monumental ramifications in that it demonstrated President Obama using the office of the Presidency to legislate, an act which violates the separation of powers as stipulated in the Constitution. In addition, this decision will have dramatic impact on the US economy as illegal immigrants will not only take jobs away from US citizens and legal immigrants, they will also be entitled to many social welfare programs. Approximately, 71% of households headed by an illegal immigrant are participating in one or more welfare programs versus 51% of legal immigrants and 39% of non-immigrants. Many economists have forecasted that over the course of time illegal immigrants in aggregate will receive more benefits than they actually pay into the tax system. According to a report released by the Center for Immigration Studies in April 2011, households headed by illegal immigrants represent an estimated fiscal deficit of $14,387 per household which other tax payers are absorbing. Moreover, the executive order will have a transformative impact on the U.S. electorate in that the individuals who were granted amnesty will express their thanks to President Obama and the Democratic party with votes. And he picked the perfect night for his announcement, the evening the Latino Grammys were broadcast, a decision which gave him a captive audience of potential new voters.
Obamacare and Jonathan Gruber – November also brought the arrival of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist and purported architect of Obamacare and his seemingly endless supply of video tapes where he informed the American public that it was the “stupidity of the American voter or whatever” which steamrolled The Affordable Care Act through congress. Again, the Gruber video series and President Obama’s own video tape moments where he denied Jonathan Gruber only to have old clips surface where he claimed to have borrowed ideas from Jonathan Gruber. While the Jonathan Gruber videos and comic book may have provided our nation with some comic relief, misleading the American public about the underlying economics of Obamacare and the actual service and financial impact to them as healthcare policy subscribers is no laughing matter. Gruber and the other key parties realized that the only way for the plan to work economically was to “assess a 40 percent tax on the “Cadillac” insurance plans. Moreover, as Gruber recognized that the American public would never buy into Obamacare if it involved a tax hike, he recommended “mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people.” Additionally, there was a misrepresentation as to role of the exchanges. The American public was told that they would receive tax credits for the exchanges within their state. But, in actuality, in states where there are no exchanges residents pay into the plan but receive no tax credits.
The Michael Brown and Eric Garner Cases – The Michael Brown and Eric Garner lawful deaths at the hands of police officers while resisting arrest have created perhaps the worst optics of all for President Obama. For it is President Obama’s using the office of the President to make race baiting antipolice rhetoric following the death of Michael Brown, a black man, who was killed resisting arrest at the hands of Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson Missouri in August, which set the stage for a national firestorm. If President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and the notorious race merchant, Al Sharpton had not transformed the Brown case into a circus and wrongfully described the Brown case as an instance of police violence towards the black community, the Eric Garner case where a black man suffered a fatal heart attack while resisting arrest at the hands of a white police officer in New York City would never have been a story. But it was President Obama’s decision to publically call for more police training in dealing with the black community coupled with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s willingness to pile on which created violence in the streets across the country with protesters chanting “death to cops”. And then the anti-police words were heard by a “lone wolf” Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, a twenty-eight year old black man who fulfilled his promise to put “wings on pigs” on December 20th by murdering execution style New York city police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu who were sitting in a patrol car in Brooklyn.
Yes, the optics have not been good for President Obama in 2014. Let’s hope that in 2015, he can stop being an isolationist leader, move to the center to work with the new Republican controlled Senate and pass legislation that benefits our country, and use the power of Presidential voice to narrow the racial divide and restore the confidence of the American people.
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