Obama´s bad week (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi 06/07/12)
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Five months remain until the race for the White House is decided.
While it is still early to try to predict who will win the tight
match-up between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican rival
Mitt Romney, one can say that the past week has been an especially
sobering one, in all aspects, for the administration.
When it comes to foreign policy, the American president pretends to
anchor his actions within a broad historical context, but this past
week exposed a blind spot in his basic knowledge and understanding.
Obama made a reference to "the Polish death camps," which outraged
all of Poland´s senior leadership. Yet even the Polish attack against
Obama, which was rife with hypocrisy self-righteousness, does not
absolve the president of responsibility for this embarrassing
This isn´t the first time a Polish issue has become a stumbling block
for a U.S. presidential candidate. In 1976 Republican President
Gerald Ford mistakenly said that Poland wasn´t located within the
sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union, during a televised
debate with Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter. His remark cemented
his public image as a politician with limited scope and insufficient
knowledge — and contributed to his subsequent electoral defeat.
Even if it is too early to gauge whether Obama´s political fate will
also be determined in part by his comments on Poland, it was a
miserable week for him in other areas as well.
On the domestic front, the victory of Wisconsin´s Republican Governor
Scott Walker over his Democratic rival certainly didn´t boost morale
in the Obama camp.
On the economic front, which will surely influence Americans´ ballots
on Nov. 6, the president suffered a double blow. First, Obama´s harsh
attack on Romney´s past conduct as a businessman in the private
sector backfired like a boomerang. Even prominent Democrats, led by
former President Bill Clinton, have publicly disavowed Obama´s
rhetoric portraying Romney as a greedy capitalist that crushed the
little guy (when he headed Bain Capital).
Last week´s disappointing employment figures for May, published just
a few days ago, were disappointing and provided further proof that
the American economy is far from recovery. Convincing voters that the
country is experiencing growth and that the economy is rebounding is
a particularly daunting task when unemployment stands at 8.2 percent.
Only one postwar president, Ronald Reagan, was re-elected in 1984
when unemployment was higher than 7%. But even then, unemployment was
only at 7.2% on the eve of the election and was expected to improve.
Reagan was also fortunate to have a particularly weak opponent —
former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale — who, among other
things, vowed to raise taxes once in office.
The incumbent president is not the only one to blame for the U.S.´s
economic dire straits, which can be traced back to George W. Bush´s
presidency. The eurozone crisis has also had a direct impact on the
U.S. economy. In other words, Obama´s economic and fiscal policies
are only partially to blame for the current situation. Moreover, as a
result of the 2010 mid-term elections, Obama has had to deal with a
contrarian House of Representatives that has torpedoed a number of
his economic policy initiatives — which could provide a target as he
seeks to assign blame to others for the faltering economy.
Barring extenuating circumstances, the economic stagnation may result
in Obama sharing the same fate as Ford and Carter in 1976 and 1980,
respectively, and George H.W. Bush in 1992. All three were voted out
of office. The recent Gallup poll, in which only 46% approved of
Obama´s job performance, attests to the steep hill he has to climb
leading up to November. Only time will tell whether Obama´s low
approval ratings will translate into a one-term presidency come Nov.
6 — and result in Romney being sworn-in as the 45th president on Jan.
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