Friday, October 23, 2009

"Obama, like Reagan..."

Have we got a new meme from the Obama White House message shop?

Paul Begala:
It's awfully early yet, but this president might be shaping up to be a little like Ronald Reagan, where people actually didn't often agree with Ronald Reagan's ideas, but they loved the guy.

Marc Lamont Hill:
As a result, Obama, like Reagan, is becoming a wildly popular president with very unpopular policies.

I'm trying to remember which of Reagan's policies was "very unpopular" - tax cuts that actually stimulate the economy? Restoration of the military? Victory in the Cold War? Reagan was obviously "very unpopular" in the fever swamps of the left, but I don't seem to recall him ever ramming through a program that polled as badly as Obamacare. Or the "stimulus." Or anything as economically ignorant and harmful as "cash for clunkers."

And history would seem to show that this is a bad analogy. For example, Obama's main policy goal right now is obviously health care. According to Gallup, that currently has only 25% support, with more (33%) opposed and even more (39%) waiting to see more details. When Gallup reported that "continue to approve President Reagan's general performance in office considerably more than they do his handling of key...policy issues1," his job approval was at 68%. But his major policy positions, contrary to the nonsense being peddled by Messrs. Hill and Begala, were mostly (certainly not all, but mostly) popular as well. Gallup went on to say that
...approval of his handling of specific problems ranges from a high of 62 percent, for his efforts to improve our national defense, to a low of 30 percent, for the way he is dealing with the situation in El Salvador. Between these extremes, the president gets favorable rating of 58 percent for handling economic conditions, 56 percent for dealing with inflation and 53 percent for his handling of regulations with the Soviet Union.

What were Reagan's big, important policy positions? Rebuilding the military (62 percent approval), taxes and economic growth (58 percent), stemming inflation (56 percent) and facing down the Soviets in the cold war (53 percent.) In other words, all of Reagan's campaign positions were popular with the American people. Reagan was able to get his policies through a Congress which was made up of a majority of the opposition party. Obama is struggling to get his policies through a Congress which is overwhelmingly controlled by his own party. To suggest that Obama's and Reagan's policies were somehow equally unpopular is to suggest utter nonsense.

Let me put is this way...

Q: How do you pass unpopular policies with an opposition Congress?
A: You don't.

Maybe Hill and Begala came up with this independently. Maybe one stole it from the other. Maybe this was suggested by someone in the White House message factory. But wherever it came from, it's a nonsensical argument, because it isn't actually based on facts.

1 - The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Jun 4, 1981;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 - 1993)
pg. A12

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