[Guest post by DRJ]
“This president, who started his term with a 69-percent approval rating in the Gallup track, has confronted more than a year of tough economic times and equally challenging politics — the economy is turning around, by the measure of the Gross Domestic Product, though unemployment still hovers near 10 percent, and now, after more than a year of pressing for healthcare reform, the president is pressing for an “up or down vote” on legislation that the public appears largely wary about.
“That’s okay. Because my job is not being popular,” Obama said last night at a fundraiser for a Democratic senator in St. Louis. “My job is solving problems for the American people. I’ve got a greater responsibility. I’ve got a deeper mission. (Applause.) I’m looking at 10 years from now, will you look back and say that what he did made sense for the American people; not whether tomorrow people are going to be looking and saying, that made him popular..”
I agree there are times Presidents need to worry more about policy than public opinion, although that argument falters in domestic matters where the public is well-equipped to judge for themselves. But how sweet the irony of watching President Obama discount the importance of polls, while supporters like the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen were not as charitable with President Bush when he took a similar position in his final days in office:
“HE DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH….
Chatting with CNN’s Larry King this week, George W. Bush was asked about his weak public support. “I don’t give a darn,” the president said, adding, “Look it, these opinion polls are nothing but a, you know, a shot of yesterday’s news.”
Here’s the thing: I don’t believe him. Or more accurately, I don’t think Bush believes what he’s saying at all.
Think about how many “exit interviews” the president has done in recent weeks. And the reports every cabinet agency has put together to spin the administration’s record in the most positive light possible. And the very existence of the “Bush Legacy Project.” We’re to believe the president has been working overtime to put his best foot forward because he doesn’t care what we think?
All of this will, of course, be punctuated with a prime-time farewell this evening. I’m sure Bush is going to these great lengths because he doesn’t “give a darn” what we think.
Maybe he just loves spending time in front of cameras, answering questions, and reflecting on his service. Yeah, that’s it. Nothing to do with public opinion at all. Perish the thought.”
It didn’t seem to occur to Benen that, regardless of public opinion, President Bush wanted to set the record straight before he left office.
Wikipedia describes Benen as the Washington Monthly’s lead blogger and a frequent guest on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program. I’m searching for his column that explains why President Obama’s love affair with public appearances casts the same doubt on Obama’s motives that Benen attributed to President Bush.