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Active Japanese Novelist of Broad Interests

Ralph Ellison

THE NEW TIMES HOLLER!’S military consultant, General Funkeshoe.

Deep Cough


From the How I'm Doin' Desk
© Amir Bey, 2010
February 1

Two days after President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union Speech, his approval rating was at 47% to 46% according to the Gallup Poll. In the last few months, Obama has been getting low approval ratings, hovering between 47% - 53%. But those low numbers, as the fall elections approach aren’t what put him and the Democratic Party at risk. There’s one demographic that should be of concern: the dissatisfaction from the so-called Left, particularly those who voted for or had leaned favorably to Obama but may not now. And there have been articles and commentary by the print and broadcast media raising questions about Obama from many angles. That’s to be expected, since no president has ever been able to satisfy all of the people. Honest Abe Lincoln shoulda said: “You can satisfy some of the people some of the time, etc.”


President Obama must press his message through the use of one of his strengths: his ability to communicate his ideas to keep his congregation together
photo, Luke Sharrett/The New York Times
Some criticisms seem to be short-sighted when alternatives are considered. First, no president has ever moved far beyond the notions of their constituency, or from the status quo unless the situation left no choice. Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt adopted the most radical measures to insure the country’s survival. Lincoln had to free the slaves; the Great Depression forced an economic and social services restructuring by the wealthy aristocrat Roosevelt. Even Reagan’s “Revolution” was defined by a vocal and organized segment of the Republican Party, the religious right and the neo-conservatives. An example of short sightedness or of short memory, many question his Afghanistan policy as if he misrepresented his intentions. However, throughout his campaign he said he’d do what he’s doing now, phasing out Iraq and focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That involvement is very complicated, and simply pulling out would be more destructive.

Many of those critical of Obama, such as Nat Hentoff in his January 13-19 Village Voice article, George W. Obama: After His First Year, Obama Shows His true face, I’d hate to see as president! Criticisms of the presidency are healthy and necessary, but their validity is based on an appreciation of what is involved. And so far Obama hasn’t made glaring errors based on ignorance and presidential arrogance that have led me to think I could do a better job. Most importantly, consider the alternatives; the Republicans have many potential candidates besides Palin, Romney and Huckabee. So let’s look closely before we decide there’s reason to delete the best of all likely winners in the 2012 election. Palin looks good at winning the Republican nomination or being influential in the run against Obama. She’s about to have spots on Fox TV, which will greatly hone her telegenic and sound bite gifts while shoring up her core constituency. She’s oncoming, the rest of the old bunch are receding; she’s relatively young, and she’s female. Don’t think she’s laughable: consider that since 1980 the Republicans went from Reagan/Bush to Bush/Quayle to Bush/Cheney. So as the Left makes demands on Obama, they should consider the likely alternatives.

Part of Obama's challenge is his unique image: he doesn't fit the mold of previous presidents, alpha males, or black leaders either. But he can certainly play hardball. Hey, I wouldn't go up against Spock if I wuz you!

Not Just and Ordinary President
photo by Shan Carter

The US has historically had a center-right culture; what strategic methods are to be used, even with the relatively moderately conservative Democrats in Congress should a progressive adopt? His economic problems are from the situation that he inherited, and he's not going to look good until something dramatic happens. At present there are good signs; the last quarter the economy grew more than it had in many years, but full recovery in the jobs sector will take time. We’re living in a slightly diminished America, politically and economically. And then folks are hung up on labels in their assessment of him: he's being branded by some as the bankers' friend and a capitalist, and on the other spectrum, he's been called a Bolshevic, yet very few live as real socialists in this society no matter what pretentions they may embrace.


Since Obama took office, his approval rating was as high as 69% and until mid June, 2009, stayed in the 60s. Since then, he’s slipped to the 50s, sometimes as low as 47%. So far he’s not had a higher disapproval rating than approval, but that may not be far off. All the polls show the same trends. However, Rasmussen Reports’ January 17th poll showed 27% of voters strongly approving of Obama’s performance, while 39% strongly disapprove. His areas of strength are Blacks at 89% and Hispanics at 73%. Along with Asians and Native Americans his overall support by people of color is 74%. Regionally, the East at 56%, and the Midwest's 52% are his strongest areas, while the West's 50% and the South at 47% are his weakest. The Republicans just love him at 15%, while the Dems are faithful at 84%. Solid Independents are at 45%.
Internationally Obama is faring much better. In almost all countries his ratings are an improvement for American leadership, even in countries where it still has a low rating.
And compared to ratings for both parties in Congress, he’s not doing so bad.

Let’s look at some of the numbers from Election Day 2008: Obama was one of only three presidents (Carter, Clinton) who won with a minority of white voters; whites favored McCain 51% to 44%, and the Independents, 48% to 43%. Obama had the solid support of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans with 83% to 13%. Looking at those stats, Obama now has a higher approval rating from Indies than on Election Day, but his support among people of color’s lower at 74%. Actually, the support for Obama based on region, ethnicity, and party are relatively the same, but weakened. Could that be expected for a not-so-new president dealing with entrenched economic problems?

THE NEW TIMES HOLLER! thinks that Obama stuck to his guns during his State of the Union speech in the face of three of the Supreme Court Justices who made the majority decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. While some continue to call him weak, he hasn’t turned center or center-right as Democrats have in the past, and that’s important considering the big loss Dems suffered in Massachusetts. However, he’s definitely going after votes with a more populist thrust in his speeches, and he appears willing to fight and not join the Republicans for them.

photo Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

Finally, after watching Obama go tete a tete with the House Republicans at their retreat in Maryland on the 29th, the substantiality of his message and presence was evident, something that he's been wrongly vilified for not having. He explained his positions and spryly countered their criticisms with eloquent grace and humor, with a resolution that was part of his appeal during the bruising primaries and election. And if nothing else, with his presidency symbols are especially important. After the Q and A was over, he left the podium and with John Phillip Sousa's music blaring and a huge American flag as a backdrop, he was shaking hands and embracing Republican House members. I was struck by the scene of a mass of practically all-white and male, largely middle-aged politicians crowding around their bronze president, an earnest conversation continuing that added a revitalized meaning to those trappings.
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