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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Obama Hoopla Starting to Wear Thin

July 13, 2009

It seems like just yesterday President Barrack Obama was elected amid all the hoopla and excitement surrounding his campaign - namely that he would bring change and hope to the White House.

Yet, it is now hard to find anyone in the grassroots - Democrat or Republican - who is praising the President for the job he has done during his first six months. There are many who applaud him for trying hard or working hard - but few are saying that he has done a great job.

This is evident in his national polling numbers which are slipping badly - especially in Red States - which he overwhelmingly carried against John McCain just a few months ago. It is true that polls go up and down but right now independent voters are decidedly against him.

The country remains philosophically center-right and it is among these individuals (mostly independent voters) that President Obama has lost so much of his support. The main concern is whether the President is living up to his own advanced billing - that he was going to change politics-as-usual in Washington.

His administration got off on the wrong foot when he turned complete control of the economic stimulus package to House Democrats who loaded it up with spending programs instead of job growth policies. He also allowed Congress to completely rebuff Republican ideas - telling the opposition party, "We won. We’ll do it our way".

He received bad advice for allowing that mantra to occur, and now we learn that the President badly misread the circumstances of the economy last January and the deficit spending ($800 billion) in the stimulus bill may be for naught.

Most of the stimulus money went to state and local governments - who are using the money as a one-time fix to balance their own budgets - and there will be very little economic stimulus or job growth in that endeavor.

The tax cut portion of the stimulus bill gave people making under $50,000 a year an additional $13 per week - which is reminiscent of the ridicule President George W. Bush took when he proposed a $600 per year stimulus check to all taxpayers during his first term in office.

But there have been further failures in Obama’s first six months - namely campaign promises that were not kept - but also some troubling symbolic gestures that have taken their toll on President Obama’s popularity and credibility.

Our prestige among foreign nations has not changed, and our allies are not cooperating as he stated they would under an Obama administration. The President also continues to look backwards and blame President Bush for his problems despite his often repeated statement that his administration would "look forward" in solving the country’s problems.

Also troubling to voters is the President’s style - he is known to host lavish and expensive parties at the White House for select powerful friends; he and the first lady have hopped aboard Air Force One (along with a full entourage of staff and others) for an evening of food and fun in New York City; and Mrs. Obama’s $600 sneakers and $9,000 handbags are not receiving favorable reviews from ordinary people.

There is nothing wrong with the President and Mrs. Obama traveling to NYC - or taking in a Broadway show - but it would be a lot smarter to line up these activities in tandem with an official presidential visit where policy is being discussed - thus avoiding the look that the trip was simply an indulgence and party junket for those newly minted with power.

No one really cares what the first lady wears - but in these difficult economic times - the voters realize it wasn’t too long ago that Mrs. Obama herself was a working woman and couldn’t afford these expensive accessories.

It’s not to late for the President to turn things around - but he must start governing with common sense and get back to basics in terms of his personal style and the economy. There will be plenty of time for hobnobbing once he leaves the White House.

That could be a timetable determined by independent voters.