Obama's 'likeability' fading fast

Thomas Lifson
Ever since he burst on the national scene, up from obscurity as an Illinois State Senator addicted to voting present, his purported "likeability" has been cited as one of Barack Obama's principal political assets. Polling has historically shown that even as the public may disapprove his policies, they tell pollsters that they like him personally.  To be honest, he has always left me cold, because I recognize in him the sort of figure I encountered many times in my academic career: someone who masks his lack of substance with a big smile, jokes (sometimes mean jokes at the expense of others), and a stock of glib answers masked in abstractions that often do not stand up well under close analysis.

Last night on Hannity, Dick Morris reported that the last few weeks have been a disaster for Obama's likability, and that his likability has plummeted to the same levels as approval of his policies. Because television is unfriendly to documentation, I cannot cite the polls Morris claimed support his conclusion. But there is other evidence that the likability factor may have gone past its expiration date, that the illusion has been broken as Americans re-vet their president.

One of America's premier liberal columnists, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, has written a surprising column, lecturing Obama about his failure to build important political relationships, contrasted with the master of political power in DC, LBJ. The subtext, unmistakably, is that this guy is not very nice, and people around him are catching on. The entire column is worth a read, but here are some excerpts:

Where Johnson was strong and unparalleled - personal relationships with much of Washington - Obama is frighteningly weak. Last week I asked a member of the Senate if he knows of anyone who really knows Obama. He said he does not.

Washington is thick with stories about Obama's insularity and distance. We hear how he does not listen to criticism - he sometimes just walks out of the room - and how he sticks to a tight circle of friends. His usual weekly golf game is mostly limited to the same people - and when he played a round with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), it was treated as an exceptional event. When, for whatever reason, Politico analyzed Obama's golf outings (June 6, 2011), it found that Obama's "golf circle has actually gotten much tighter over the past 21 / 2 years" - none of them politicians or, heaven forbid, journalists.

Lyndon Johnson, in contrast, would not think of wasting a golf game on the game itself. (snip)

Obama cannot or will not indulge in the sort of face-to-face politicking that Johnson so favored. He has not stroked important contributors - one bundler told me he never hears from Obama. As the New York Times put it recently in an article about his fundraising on Wall Street, Obama himself has "a reputation for being cold at small gatherings." "I just don't think he likes us," one fundraiser is quoted as saying.

The best that can be said for Obama is that he treats everyone with about the same degree of distance. One important Democrat used the term "cuckoo-clock events" to refer to White House receptions where Obama robotically appears, says a minimal amount of words and then disappears. He does not mingle - or, if he does, it is as little as possible. Bill Clinton, in contrast, was the host from hell. The party never ended.

There are real consequences to Obama's odd approach to politics. He is not much loved by his own party.

I find it quite fascinating that prominent liberals are grousing in public about Obama. There are many subterranean signs of deep discontent with leadership among Democrat grown-ups. ObamaCare cost Democrats their House majority, of course. Despite the happy talk, Obama's track record is not the sort that merits re-election.  Those who are not fooled by the media veneer see that Obama could wreck the Democratic Party if his re-election bid ushers in a GOP president and Senate majority. Last night Dick Morris predicted a filibuster proof 60 vote majority is even possible for the GOP in the Senate. That would be a truly chilling prospect, and can't be dismissed because so many more Senate Democrats are up for election this year than Republicans.

It promises to be an interesting election cycle. Quietly carrying on her duties, Secretary of State Clinton remains the fantasy candidate of many establishment Democrats. If you don't think that they would love to dump Obama and nominate Hillary, you are not paying attention to the signs of discontent. Is a coup possible, forcing Obama off the ticket?  It would certainly be highly unlikely. But keeping in mind the fact that Obama is a man with many secrets, parts of his resume that have no details, it can't be ruled out. Politics can be full of surprises.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky, who adds:

he was warned years ago by Erskine Bowles not to bring his Cook county entourage with him to DC.

By relying on a small group of insiders (few with any big picture experience) he narrows the range of choices available to him, and he constricts the flow of information that he should use to make decisions.

Hence faulty decisions, compounded by the problem that they worship him and that they fear retribution should they dissent from his views and decisions.

Where is the working across the aisle, post-partisan president?

How many Cabinet meetings has he held? See this

Ever since he burst on the national scene, up from obscurity as an Illinois State Senator addicted to voting present, his purported "likeability" has been cited as one of Barack Obama's principal political assets. Polling has historically shown that even as the public may disapprove his policies, they tell pollsters that they like him personally.  To be honest, he has always left me cold, because I recognize in him the sort of figure I encountered many times in my academic career: someone who masks his lack of substance with a big smile, jokes (sometimes mean jokes at the expense of others), and a stock of glib answers masked in abstractions that often do not stand up well under close analysis.

Last night on Hannity, Dick Morris reported that the last few weeks have been a disaster for Obama's likability, and that his likability has plummeted to the same levels as approval of his policies. Because television is unfriendly to documentation, I cannot cite the polls Morris claimed support his conclusion. But there is other evidence that the likability factor may have gone past its expiration date, that the illusion has been broken as Americans re-vet their president.

One of America's premier liberal columnists, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, has written a surprising column, lecturing Obama about his failure to build important political relationships, contrasted with the master of political power in DC, LBJ. The subtext, unmistakably, is that this guy is not very nice, and people around him are catching on. The entire column is worth a read, but here are some excerpts:

Where Johnson was strong and unparalleled - personal relationships with much of Washington - Obama is frighteningly weak. Last week I asked a member of the Senate if he knows of anyone who really knows Obama. He said he does not.

Washington is thick with stories about Obama's insularity and distance. We hear how he does not listen to criticism - he sometimes just walks out of the room - and how he sticks to a tight circle of friends. His usual weekly golf game is mostly limited to the same people - and when he played a round with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), it was treated as an exceptional event. When, for whatever reason, Politico analyzed Obama's golf outings (June 6, 2011), it found that Obama's "golf circle has actually gotten much tighter over the past 21 / 2 years" - none of them politicians or, heaven forbid, journalists.

Lyndon Johnson, in contrast, would not think of wasting a golf game on the game itself. (snip)

Obama cannot or will not indulge in the sort of face-to-face politicking that Johnson so favored. He has not stroked important contributors - one bundler told me he never hears from Obama. As the New York Times put it recently in an article about his fundraising on Wall Street, Obama himself has "a reputation for being cold at small gatherings." "I just don't think he likes us," one fundraiser is quoted as saying.

The best that can be said for Obama is that he treats everyone with about the same degree of distance. One important Democrat used the term "cuckoo-clock events" to refer to White House receptions where Obama robotically appears, says a minimal amount of words and then disappears. He does not mingle - or, if he does, it is as little as possible. Bill Clinton, in contrast, was the host from hell. The party never ended.

There are real consequences to Obama's odd approach to politics. He is not much loved by his own party.

I find it quite fascinating that prominent liberals are grousing in public about Obama. There are many subterranean signs of deep discontent with leadership among Democrat grown-ups. ObamaCare cost Democrats their House majority, of course. Despite the happy talk, Obama's track record is not the sort that merits re-election.  Those who are not fooled by the media veneer see that Obama could wreck the Democratic Party if his re-election bid ushers in a GOP president and Senate majority. Last night Dick Morris predicted a filibuster proof 60 vote majority is even possible for the GOP in the Senate. That would be a truly chilling prospect, and can't be dismissed because so many more Senate Democrats are up for election this year than Republicans.

It promises to be an interesting election cycle. Quietly carrying on her duties, Secretary of State Clinton remains the fantasy candidate of many establishment Democrats. If you don't think that they would love to dump Obama and nominate Hillary, you are not paying attention to the signs of discontent. Is a coup possible, forcing Obama off the ticket?  It would certainly be highly unlikely. But keeping in mind the fact that Obama is a man with many secrets, parts of his resume that have no details, it can't be ruled out. Politics can be full of surprises.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky, who adds:

he was warned years ago by Erskine Bowles not to bring his Cook county entourage with him to DC.

By relying on a small group of insiders (few with any big picture experience) he narrows the range of choices available to him, and he constricts the flow of information that he should use to make decisions.

Hence faulty decisions, compounded by the problem that they worship him and that they fear retribution should they dissent from his views and decisions.

Where is the working across the aisle, post-partisan president?

How many Cabinet meetings has he held? See this