Monday, January 11, 2010

The Importance of Presidential Popularity

In her WSJ column this weekend, Peggy Noonan nailed one of the POTUS' biggest problems:

I am wondering if the Obama administration thinks it vaguely dishonorable to be popular. If you mention to Obama staffers that they really have to be concerned about the polls, they look at you with a certain . . . not disdain but patience, as if you don't understand the purpose of politics. That purpose, they believe, is to move the governed toward greater justice. Just so, but in democracy you do this by garnering and galvanizing public support. But they think it's weaselly to be well thought of.

In politics you must tend to the garden. The garden is the constituency, in Mr. Obama's case the country. No great endeavor is possible without its backing. In a modern presidency especially you have to know this, because there will be times when history throws you a crisis, and to address it you may have to do an unpopular thing. A president in those circumstances must use all the goodwill he's built up over the months and years to get through that moment and survive doing what he thinks is right. Mr. Obama acts as if he doesn't know this. He hasn't built up popularity to use on a rainy day. If he had, he'd be getting through the Christmas plot drama better than he is.

The Obama people have taken to pointing out how their guy doesn't govern by the polls. This is all too believable. The Bush people, too, used to bang away about how he didn't govern by the polls. They both added unneeded stress to the past 10 years, and it is understandable if many of us now think, "Oh, for a president who'd govern by the polls."

The photo above is from here. I'm using it to emphasize Noonan's point that POTUS-43 did not appreciate the importance of public support and, apparently, POTUS-44 has quickly forgotten this error of his predecessor.

What does that oval do to you?

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