Aug 2, 2010

President Obama
If Ronald Reagan was the classic Teflon president, Barack Obama is made of Velcro.

Through two terms, Reagan eluded much of the responsibility for recession and foreign policy scandal. In less than two years, Obama has become ensnared in blame.

Hoping to better insulate Obama, White House aides have sought to give other Cabinet officials a higher profile and additional public exposure. They are also crafting new ways to explain the president's policies to a skeptical public.
But Obama remains the colossus of his administration — to a point where trouble anywhere in the world is often his to solve.

The president is on the hook to repair the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster, stabilize Afghanistan, help fix Greece's ailing economy and do right by Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official fired as a result of a misleading fragment of videotape.

What's not sticking to Obama is a legislative track record that his recent predecessors might envy. Political dividends from passage of a healthcare overhaul or a financial regulatory bill have been fleeting.

Instead, voters are measuring his presidency by a more immediate yardstick: Is he creating enough jobs? So far the verdict is no, and that has taken a toll on Obama's approval ratings. Only 46% approve of Obama's job performance, compared with 47% who disapprove, according to Gallup's daily tracking poll.

"I think the accomplishments are very significant, but I think most people would look at this and say, 'What was the plan for jobs?' " said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.). "The agenda he's pushed here has been a very important agenda, but it hasn't translated into dinner table conversations."

Reagan was able to glide past controversies with his popularity largely intact. He maintained his affable persona as a small-government advocate while seeming above the fray in his own administration.

Reagan was untarnished by such calamities as the 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marines stationed in Beirut and scandals involving members of his administration. In the 1986 Iran-Contra affair, most of the blame fell on lieutenants.

Obama lately has tried to rip off the Velcro veneer. In a revealing moment during the oil spill crisis, he reminded Americans that his powers aren't "limitless." He told residents in Grand Isle, La., that he is a flesh-and-blood president, not a comic-book superhero able to dive to the bottom of the sea and plug the hole.

"I can't suck it up with a straw," he said.


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