In an online Oxford-style debate moderated by The Economist’s Washington correspondent Robert Guest, Elaine Kamarck is currently arguing against the motion, “This house believes that Barack Obama is failing.” Kamarck notes that public trust in government has declined as dissatisfaction with job creation efforts, banking reform, and mortgage assistance programs has grown. The president has also failed to rally the public to his side in the debate over health care reform.
“Obama's first-year troubles,” she says, “were entirely predictable. In fact, in November 2008, my colleague William Galston and I did exactly that. In a long article titled ‘Change You Can Believe in Needs a Government You Can Trust,’ we reviewed the decades of data from the American public showing a severe and persistent lack of trust in the federal government. This lack of trust is an especially difficult problem for a Democratic president with an activist and progressive agenda.”
Nonetheless, Kamarck argues, the administration is now on the right path: “The fix began in the State of the Union address. I carefully watched the clock. It took 40 minutes for him to even mention the words ‘health care.’ And in the 40 minutes before that he talked of nothing but the economy and jobs. The State of the Union was a recalibration of his presidency that will limit his losses in the midterm elections to within the normal range and guarantee his re-election….Obama got the most important message when he said, ‘We face a deficit of trust—deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.’ This is not a man who will fail. This is a man who will learn and thrive.”
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