Obama Poll Watch -- January, 2017

[ Posted Friday, January 20th, 2017 – 17:06 PST ]

Obama's Final Honeymoon Ends Well

America now has a new president, meaning (among other things) it is time to take one final look back at the presidency of Barack Obama. The chart is now complete on the public's opinion of how President Obama performed his duties, and his final "honeymoon" period not only continued during January, it actually improved considerably.

Without further ado, let's take a look at the final Obama monthly average poll ratings.

Obama Approval -- January 2017

[Click on graph to see larger-scale version.]

January, 2017

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Four Years, Or Eight?

[ Posted Thursday, January 19th, 2017 – 18:05 PST ]

Since we're about to leap into an unknown future tomorrow, I found myself wondering what Donald Trump's chances of being a one-term president would be. Historically, we're already in one of the longest runs of two-termers in all of American history, so if that's any indication, Trump's chances for two terms seem pretty remote.

Of course, this is all just idle speculation. Historical firsts are set all the time, so there'd be nothing stopping Trump from setting his own. He's certainly already defied the odds a number of times and come out on top.

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Cabinetmaking Season

[ Posted Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 – 17:54 PST ]

It's cabinetmaking season in Washington again. President-Elect Donald Trump has made his selections, and they're all working their way through their confirmation hearings. The outcome, for virtually all of them, is not in doubt. Unless three Republican senators disapprove of a nominee to the point of voting against his or her confirmation, Trump will get the cabinet he desires. To the victor go the spoils, and all of that.

Trump's cabinet is a mixed bunch, to state it as politely as possible. Some have a wealth of government experience to draw upon, some (like Trump) have none. Some seem to be sober and reasonable people, and some seem to be nothing short of bomb-throwers intent on an ideological goal. But the most interesting thing about them so far is the degree which they disagree with Donald Trump on certain issues (unless they're just "saying anything to get confirmed" -- always a possibility). It's not exactly the classic "team of rivals," but rather a team which may just contradict the president on basic viewpoints about reality (such as whether climate change is a Chinese hoax, for instance).

How this is going to work out is anyone's guess, at this point. It may be easier to predict how the individual cabinet members will act than to predict how President Trump is going to act (or react) on any particular issue. As Joe Biden recently commented, we all have "no freakin' idea" of how Trump's going to set about the job of being president. It'll probably be shocking in many ways, but at this point it'd be hard to be surprised by anything Trump does. His personal style is so erratic that anything is possible, really.

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Guest Author -- Business Cycle Blues

[ Posted Tuesday, January 17th, 2017 – 18:12 PST ]

Program Note: A while back, I issued a challenge to guest authors to send in submissions, if they were tired of me writing "filler" pieces on days when there wasn't much else to comment on in the world of politics. Today, I'm running a submission from commenter "neilm," who responded to my challenge with a very well-written piece.

I should mention, for anyone else interested, that I'll always consider guest author pieces if they're well constructed and relevant, so if you'd like to take me up on the offer, just let me know via email. For today, please enjoy the following, which was written by Neil McGovern.

-- Chris Weigant


Business Cycle Blues

Recently, Salon (not a right wing outlet, let's say) published a series of charts that show how much better the economy does under Democratic versus Republican administrations. This is a popular meme that appears regularly in the news feeds of the left-inclined, such as myself.

Even Donald Trump chimed in on this (although I think he has probably changed his tune since). In an interview with Wolf Blitzer in 2004 he commented that: "I've been around for a long time and it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans."

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Pondering Cultural Consolidation

[ Posted Monday, January 16th, 2017 – 17:43 PST ]

Today is when America celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's birthday, so I thought it would be an appropriate day to discuss a cultural change in America over the polite terminology used to identify what might be called characteristics of (take your pick) race, ethnicity, or cultural identity. I'll warn you from the start, however, that this is not the usual discussion most people would associate with today's holiday, but rather something which has left me scratching my head trying to figure out the reasoning behind. I will begin with one of the usual discussions people have today, and then branch off from there, in an attempt to relate it all in a loose fashion to Dr. King's holiday.

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Friday Talking Points [421] -- Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

[ Posted Friday, January 13th, 2017 – 17:47 PST ]

We know there's that pesky clause in the Constitution and all, but doesn't it seem like today would have been more appropriate for Donald Trump's inauguration? That's our way of saying "Happy Friday the 13th" to everyone, we should point out. Ahem.

During certain periods of the year, we have been known to overuse sports metaphors when talking about politics. But our guess is that the favorite quotes to overuse for the next four years will be those from Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. We were reminded of one of these while watching the week unfold, from a Trump press conference to the confirmation hearings to the Republicans smacking into reality on their "repeal and replace with nothing" dreams for Obamacare. Here's the quote:

Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

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Trump Presidency Scenarios

[ Posted Thursday, January 12th, 2017 – 17:57 PST ]

I've been taking a look back at the Obama presidency this week, so I thought it'd only be fair to look forward today and lay out the possible outcomes of the presidency of Donald Trump. Now, before I even start, I realize this is largely a fool's errand, for any number of reasons. But that's never stopped me before, and today I intend not to make predictions of what will happen, but rather run the whole gamut of what could conceivably happen. If rampant speculation without a shred of conclusion isn't your cup of tea, then I'd advise just skipping today's column altogether.

Predicting any future president's legacy is impossible, of course, because nobody knows what will happen. Anything can happen in American politics, which is only proven by the fact that Donald Trump is about to be sworn in as president. But more importantly, external events often have more to do with how a president is seen later on than anything anyone could have predicted on Inauguration Day. Nobody thought George W. Bush would largely be remembered as a war president in January of 2001, for instance. External events (whether domestic or foreign) often shape a presidency in ways the campaign never anticipated, in other words. So Trump could be remembered later for something nobody expects right now. I'm sure I'll be reading this column in four years' time and laugh at all the things I got wrong, but so be it.

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Obama's Farewell

[ Posted Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 – 18:27 PST ]

Last night, President Barack Obama bid the American public farewell. He gave a speech that was inspiring, and called upon Americans to get involved in the political process in a multitude of ways. Like many historic farewell addresses (even quoting from George Washington's), it also delivered a warning about what Obama perceives as current and future dangers which threaten America. Washington's farewell address, when read in full, contains a scathing denunciation of the mere concept of political parties (called "factions" at the time), and Obama's followed suit in denouncing the rabidly partisan era we now find ourselves in.

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Playboy Presidents

[ Posted Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 – 17:58 PST ]

Before I begin my main thesis today, a clarification of terms is necessary. America has certainly had its fair share of playboy presidents (see: Bill Clinton, J.F.K., et al), but it seems we're in a transition point between what might be called two Playboy presidents. That capital "P" and the italics signify the magazine, not the general term, in other words.

Playboy magazine was always known chiefly for its main draw -- photographs of glamorously naked women. There's no denying that. "I only read it for the articles" is now actually a cliché, in fact, although some impressive writing certainly did appear between the photo spreads. Both the fiction and the non-fiction was impressive, which is what set Playboy apart from what all the other "men's magazines" available at the time. For instance, Jimmy Carter admitted his "lust in his heart" in a Playboy interview -- which sent some ripples across the political world at the time.

But when I was thinking both about the end of the Barack Obama presidency and the beginning of the Donald Trump era, I realized that there were two other aspects of Playboy worth commenting on. Both Obama and Trump grew up in what might be called the golden age of Playboy, the 1950s through the 1970s. And both seem to embody these two aspects.

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Program Note

[ Posted Monday, January 9th, 2017 – 21:23 PST ]

Due to circumstances beyond my control, there will be no column today. We got hit with a huge storm this weekend, and woke up with no power today. We finally got our power back late in the day, but too late to put together a coherent column, sorry. Another storm is on the way tomorrow, but it doesn't look anywhere near as bad, so here's hoping tomorrow's column will appear as usual. Again, apologies for the interruption of service, but without power it's tough to blog....

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant