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Opinion

Obama's luck seems to have run out

President Barack Obama's approval ratings are trending precipitously downward. His attempt to persuade the American public that he and his government are in control of the environmental disaster that is the Deepwater Horizon spill met with mixed reviews. After his 18-minute address to the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday evening, three diehard Obama enthusiasts at MSNBC gave a collective six thumbs down to the presidential performance.

Here, courtesy of Real Clear Politics, are some of the comments from Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman:

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Mr. Olbermann said, "It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days." He also remarked that "nothing specific at all was said." Mr. Matthews compared Mr. Obama, the man who gave him such "thrills up my leg," to the feckless and luckless Jimmy Carter. He also said the president had "no direction" in his speech. Mr. Fineman said Mr. Obama wasn't specific enough. Mr. Olbermann chimed in again, saying, "I don't think he aimed low. I don't think he aimed at anything at all. It's startling." And Mr. Matthews said, "[It's] ludicrous that he keeps saying [Secretary of Energy Steven] Chu has a Nobel Prize. I'll barf if he does it one more time."

When Barack Obama is trashed by this trio, surely things aren't going his way. People in Louisiana, I read, are giving this president lower grades for the government response to the continuing oil spill than they gave George W. Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Obama fans have a mantra: President Obama's troubles are all Mr. Bush's fault. Do I not understand that he inherited the wind and is reaping the whirlwind? Sure. But it is clear enough that bad things have been made worse by the actions of this president and his congressional allies.

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By most accounts, the Great Recession began in December 2007 as the long, reckless credit expansion began its inevitable bust. The global economy began reeling, and the federal government bailouts of investment banks, auto companies and state and local governments got under way. The president's response was to continue and indeed expand upon the Keynesian idea of accelerated government spending to stimulate the economy.

As we all know, the problem is we're out of actual money — the kind earned through economic production — and into the creation of it through the issuance of ever more debt. This is made possible by the fact that the dollar remains the world's reserve currency and the United States is the (relatively) safest place to store one's riches. The U.S. debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015, according to a Treasury Department report to Congress. More than $2 trillion of that has been added in the year and a half of the Obama presidency. He said the war in Afghanistan was "the right one" as opposed to the one in Iraq, which he was more or less against. He agreed to a "surge" — the dispatch of 30,000 more troops in hopes that it would tilt the longest war in American history our way. It has not. Mr. Obama promised to begin a withdrawal from Afghanistan by July of 2011. All indications are he cannot fulfill that promise.

He got his health care reform bill through Congress and told us it would not only make health care available to the millions without health insurance, but it would somehow reduce the deficit. It will make insurance available, but health care will itself be subject to increased rationing. Higher demand for medical treatments will make them either more costly or harder to get, probably both. There's no avoiding that. Public opposition to "Obamacare" continues to fester. Whatever economic recovery we're having is not accompanied by needed job growth. November could well see a routing of congressional incumbents.

No wonder the president seemed so, well, subdued in his first Oval Office address to the nation. The expanding environmental disaster in the gulf is just another of the unfavorable circumstances and events that make his job unimaginably difficult. To be sure, much of it has been of his own doing, but that streak of luck that helped him win the White House against initially great odds seems to have run out.

Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090 WBAL-AM and WBAL.com. His column appears Fridays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is rsmith@wbal.com.



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