Who’s Patriotic?

Liberals used to love to claim that President Bush accused his political opponents of being unpatriotic. It wasn’t true, of course; Bush never said any such thing. But last night, Barack Obama came perilously close to making that claim about Republicans who oppose his pork bill.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Obama called Ms. Collins and Mr. Specter, as well as Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, another Republican expected to support the deal, to acknowledge they were acting against pressure from their party and, one official said, to thank them for their patriotism in helping advance the bill at a critical time.

So, if the three Republicans who sided with the Democrats in the Senate are “patriotic,” what does that make the rest of the Senate Republicans, or the House Republicans who unanimously voted against the Democrats’ pork-fest? Unpatriotic? Isn’t that a natural inference?

Barack Obama is well on his way to an extraordinarily partisan and divisive administration. Which helps to explain, I think, why his own popularity is shriveling. Rasmussen reports that Obama’s approval rating is down to 60%–not bad, but nothing special for a President who has been in office for less than three weeks. More striking is the decline in Obama’s “approval index,” i.e., the difference between those who strongly approve of his performance and those who strongly disapprove. This graph, from Rasmussen’s site, shows how Obama’s “strong approval” has declined while his “strong disapproval” has increased:

obama_index_feb_7_2009.jpg

To some extent this reflects partisan differences that inevitably come to the fore once a President begins to act; only 9% of Republicans now strongly approve of his performance (one can only wonder who they are; maybe they live in Maine.) But Obama’s decline is more widespread: he has slipped even more among Democrats, and only 64% now strongly approve of his performance. Likewise, Obama has fallen off among voters not affiliated with either party; strong “approvers” outnumber strong disapprovers by only 29%-24%.

Does this mean the media will soon stop gushing about Obama’s extraordinary popularity and charisma? No. But his numbers are probably destined to fall further as voters start to feel the hangover from Obama’s pork bill.

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