Frank Bruni has joined the ranks of New York Times columnists like Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd in an outbreak of synchronized finger wagging at the President. Obama still seems Lincolnian to them; only now the Times is beginning to treat Obama much the same way the New York World treated Abe. (Hint: It wasn’t a friendly dynamic.)
Bruni notes that Obama’s recent anti-Romney ads attacking private equity came off as “a steady blast of negativity from a president who once positioned himself as a transformational figure—and a transcendent one”:
Now he finds himself mired in a tedious, dispiriting back-and-forth. Romney charges that the economy is worse than Obama is willing to acknowledge; Obama says it’s not as bad as Romney maintains and a whole lot better than it might have been.
They squabble over pejoratives. They tussle over gradations of distress. And while they pay too little attention to grand visions, their aides work overtime on gaffe patrol. Pettiness is pessimism’s flower.
Bruni may not be the last Times writer to join the new Skeptic’s Club, if only because the Grey Lady’s columnists’ newfound disappointment in the President is in step with world opinion. According to a recent international poll, Obama’s approval rating in countries across the world is dropping:
Among five European countries surveyed both in 2009 and 2012, approval of Mr Obama’s international policies dropped from 78% to 63%. In five Muslim countries surveyed in both years, the approval rate dropped from 34% to 15%. Russia also joined the countries with double-digit declines, from 40% of respondents approving US international policies to 22%, an 18% decrease.
Next to climate change and the Mideast peace process, the administration’s drone strikes have shattered the President’s favorable record in both Europe and the Muslim world.
Obama has had a rough week. Romney is gaining on him in the polls, with good reason. The economic situation in the U.S. has not improved the way Obama suggested it would during his first term. If domestic and world opinion continue to turn against Obama, we could see a very tight race in November.