GEORGE KENNEDY: It's a tough job, but the president has already accomplished a great deal

Thursday, September 23, 2010 | 12:36 p.m. CDT; updated 9:19 a.m. CDT, Friday, September 24, 2010

I don’t usually answer the Missourian’s daily question, but Wednesday I couldn’t resist.

The question itself was pretty bland: “Are you satisfied with the job that the president is doing, particularly with the economy?”

What really attracted my interest was the fourth answer option. “He’s doing OK, but who am I to say? He has the hardest job in the country.”

That was, I thought, close to a perfect response. The other choices were the standard “Yes,” “No,” “Other,” and the cop out, “It’s too complicated.”

When I clicked on No. 4 at, I was surprised to see that I was in a distinct minority. Most respondents had said “No.”

Maybe I’m blinded by partisanship (I did vote for the guy and I am convinced he’s a native-born Christian), but I’m inclined to think instead that a lot of those “No” voters and many who tell national pollsters the same thing are being misled by the media and confused by the cacophony of criticism, mainly cynical, gushing from the Party Formerly Known as Republican but now undergoing a takeover by Tea Party activists and fellow travelers.

One of the institutional biases that journalists don’t like to talk about is our consistent attraction to the negative. We’re drawn to bad news like moths to flame. Lord knows, there’s plenty of bad news available these days, much of it centered on the economy; but even the best of us are susceptible to over-simplifying.

For example, the Missourian referred to a New York Times report of a televised conversation Monday between President Obama and what the paper described as “disillusioned supporters.”

The only thing wrong with that description was that it was misleadingly incomplete. If you watched that hour, as I did when CNBC rebroadcast it Monday evening, you saw that the crowd also included hopeful and even grateful citizens.

One of the “disillusioned” was a self-identified hedge fund titan who was feeling picked on. The president’s response to him was, I thought, a lot kinder than the puffed-up parasite deserved.

The broader over-simplification shows up repeatedly when the national media – and I use the word deliberately to include both reporters and commentators, print and broadcast – write and talk as though the president were all-powerful, instead of constrained by the realities of an unresponsive Federal Reserve, a dysfunctional Senate and an implacable opposition.

The largely obscured fact is that President Obama has accomplished a great deal.

Ezra Klein, who blogs on the economy for the Washington Post, pointed out that some of the most important achievements looked like “pipe dreams” before they came true. Those included health care reform, which eluded leaders from Truman to Nixon to Clinton and which will cover 90 percent of all citizens and eventually save billions of dollars.

Another “pipe dream” was the stimulus package, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office assesses has saved millions of jobs and invested billions in green energy, health information technology, high-speed rail, universal broadband, medical research and infrastructure.

Another was the Race to the Top education reform, which is reshaping and strengthening public education. Klein concludes, “No recent president has invested in the country on anything like that level.”

I’ll bet many of those “No” voters, like me, had overlooked or forgotten much of that. And the new consumer protection agency? Saving the auto industry? Those have gotten lost, too, in the barrage of bad news and the deliberate lies of the Tea Partier Republicans., that helpful fact checker created by the St. Petersburg Times, keeps a running tally of President Obama’s promises. So far, of more than 500 promises made, he has kept 122, with 238 in the works, 82 stalled (mainly in the Republican-blockaded Senate) and only 22 broken.

That’s why I said he’s doing OK. How did you respond?

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Ray Shapiro September 23, 2010 | 1:03 p.m.

Why'd they delete your photo George?
This now looks like a news article instead of an opinion column.

(Report Comment)
Nick Jungman September 23, 2010 | 3:47 p.m.

Not sure what happened there, Ray, but it's correct now.

Nick Jungman

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 23, 2010 | 3:55 p.m.

That's better.
I feel so much more in balance with my surroundings.
And, it now looks like a more serious opinion piece.
However, MY response hasn't changed...
("Ray Shapiro September 21, 2010 | 12:34 p.m.
For my answer, watch this...")

(Report Comment)
Rick Huffman September 23, 2010 | 6:27 p.m.

I am a 57 year old white male and I have followed politics all my life and I can say that as of today president Obama has done a credible job. After 12 years of republicans running congress and eight years of Bush our country and its institutions were run into the ground. In two years, Obama has saved the auto industry, imagine if we had listen to the GOPTeaparty and let the industry go what chaos that would have been. In two ears he and the democrats have has turned the corner on letting insurance companies rule our health about death panels..the insurance companies are the death panel. But yet the republicans wanted to continue to give them free reign just like they did with the pharmaceutical companies. In two years, he has put the lid on wall street and credit card stealing us blind. In two years, he has restored credibility abroad and captured more Al Qeada top leaders than Bush did in 8. The bottom line is the Tea Party in the republicans are dangerous, they would rather see the country fail than to work together to solve problems for America. If Americans fail the test and vote these guys back in, I am fearful of the out come, no social security, no medicare, no department of education, re-write the history books, repeal of the voters rights and lastly a backward step toward a racist country. Handing the keys to the country over to greedy wall street and big oil. And get this, the republicans actually apologized to BP for Obama making them pay for the oil spill. As a 57 year old southern white male, I am proud that I have lived long enough to out live my racism and now I fear our country is headed back to racism and fear, its the only policy the republicans and the Tea party have.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 23, 2010 | 10:37 p.m.

Rick Huffman says:
("...racism and fear, its the only policy the republicans and the Tea party have.")

Ya think?

And there are some more groups which do not have racism and fear as a policy.
Like the Libertarian Party.

Any racism and fear coming out of Democrats like Al Sharpton or even Nancy Pelosi?

(Report Comment)

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