I've been wondering whether John McCain poisoned the well for Barack Obama by inspiring the conservative base to loathe him with Clintonesque fervor. As I noted in my last post, Obama has historically high favorable ratings but also has approximately 25% of the country that is "afraid" as a result of his election and strongly disapproves of his presidency (already!).
Here's more evidence of the bifurcated nature of the new president's political standing. USAToday.com provides further evidence that Obama's post-election political image is currently in better standing than any president since 1992:
President-elect Barack Obama comes away from Election Day with a 68% "favorable rating," the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows. That's up from 62% who said they think favorably of him just before the election. The poll numbers were released just moments ago...
USA TODAY polling editor Jim Norman passes along some historical perspective:
-In 2004, President Bush's approval rating rose from 51% before the election to 60% afterward.
-In 2000, Bush's approval went from 55% just before the election to 59% after the Supreme Court ruling in December that put him in the White House...
-In 1996, President Clinton went from 56% pre-election to 60% (those results are based on surveys of registered voters, a slightly different group than the broader one surveyed for today's results).
-Four years earlier, in 1992, then-governor Clinton went from 51% pre-election to 60% (also polls of registered voters).
(It's important to remember, however, that 1992 and 2000, the most comparable elections in this sample, were both different than 2008. Clinton faced a strong third party challenge from Ross Perot that kept him well under 50% of the popular vote, and Bush took office after the Florida recount. So the bar for Obama to exceed is fairly low.)
On the other hand, however, the possibility of "Obama hatred" reaching Clinton-era levels of paranoia is real. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) says "we've elected a Marxist to be president of the United States" and compared a misinterpreted remark by Obama to actions taken by Adolf Hitler after taking power in pre-WWII Germany:
A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist or fascist dictatorship.
"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force," Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. "I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."
Broun cited a July speech by Obama that has circulated on the Internet in which the then-Democratic presidential candidate called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military.
"That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did," Broun said. "When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."
Obama's comments about a national security force came during a speech in Colorado about building a new civil service corps. Among other things, he called for expanding the nation's foreign service and doubling the size of the Peace Corps "to renew our diplomacy."
"We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set," Obama said in July. "We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."
Broun said he also believes Obama likely will move to ban gun ownership if he does build a national police force.
Obama has said he respects the Second Amendment right to bear arms and favors "common sense" gun laws. Gun rights advocates interpret that as meaning he'll at least enact curbs on ownership of assault weapons and concealed weapons. As an Illinois state lawmaker, Obama supported a ban on semiautomatic weapons and tighter restrictions on firearms generally.
"We can't be lulled into complacency," Broun said. "You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential."
The AP does a good job of fact-checking Broun's statement but I expect more, not less, of this in the future. It puts the lie to Jon Meachem's claim on "Meet the Press" yesterday that John McCain ran a "noble" campaign. This sort of rhetoric is McCain's ugly legacy for the next four years. A certain degree of demonization may have been inevitable, but McCain took the low road for most of the general election.
[R]adio's Biggest Big Man also assures us that the Democrat welcomes "economic chaos" because it gives him "greater opportunity for expanded government." In a time when the nation calls out for cool leadership and rational discussion, Limbaugh stirs the caldron, a tendency he proved in a particularly grotesque way last week when he accused Obama's party of plotting a government takeover of 401(k) retirement plans.
"They're going to take your 401(k), put it in the Social Security trust fund, whatever the hell that is," Limbaugh woofed. "Trust fund, my rear end."
A slight problem with Limbaugh's report: Obama and the Democrats have proposed no such thing.
The proposal, in fact, emanated from a single economist, one of many experts testifying to a congressional committee.
The president-elect has thus far shown as much interest in taking over your 401(k) as he has in moving the capital to Nairobi. (If you look hard, you might find that one somewhere out there in the blogosphere, too.)
To broadcast such a report -- so drained of context as to constitute a lie -- would be a shameless act at any time. But Limbaugh needlessly stirred the fears of the millions he holds in his thrall -- making the 401(k) thievery sound like nearly a done deal. Shameless.