While White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius got grilled this week about ObamaCare's snafus, the image of their boss, President Obama, has gotten fried.
According to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, President Obama’s personal likability rating among Americans is more negative than positive for the first time in his presidency: a net negative 4%.
I believe the reason for this slide is that the ObamaCare rollout has finally convinced most Americans that the president is personally responsible for misleading them and personally accountable for imposing hurtful, intrusive, expensive consequences on the public.
Yet Washington Post political reporter Sean Sullivan, writes that, “There doesn’t appear to be any one overarching reason, policy or political decision to explain the drop in Obama’s popularity, say the NBC/WSJ pollsters. More likely, it’s a combination of time and recent political crises like Syria, NSA surveillance, glitches with the health-care law roll out, as well as the standoff over the budget.”
I disagree. While all of the other issues may have contributed to slippage in the president’s personal popularity, ObamaCare’s rollout has jarred the public into indisputably drawing a straight line between the president’s actions and the adverse impact on their personal lives.
With Syria, NSA surveillance, the budget standoff—and just about every other controversy during the president’s second term—Mr. Obama’s likability rating remained net positive. He blamed others for acting badly and doing great harm.
In all of those other cases, the president practiced his inveterate rhetorical sleight of hand where he claimed that in his quest to protect victims he had become a victim himself -- never responsible for his own actions, never held to his own words, and distressed to hear that there are problems.
But with the ObamaCare rollout, the “glitches” have finally focused the public on the president’s personal responsibility and disingenuousness.
Americans now see a direct link between the president and his signature creation: ObamaCare. He cannot scapegoat others. He is the goat.
With ObamaCare, the president substantially raises many people’s health insurance premiums and deductibles; doesn’t allow them to keep the plans and doctors they like; and saddles them with services they don’t want but have to pay for—which all break his previous promises.
Those consequences aren’t refutable any longer. And they are personally offensive in a way that impinges on the president’s character regarding his honesty and motivations.
In 2012, enough people found the president’s character likable enough—well intentioned enough—to return him to office.
But with the ObamaCare rollout, for the first time even the president’s most obsequious backers and apologists are struggling to defend him against his transgressions that are awash in personal betrayal and personal harm.
Two examples are TV comedians whose habitual Republican bashing and liberal sympathies are touchstones for many in the news media and the public.
Bill Maher recently said of the president, “It looks like he told a lie. I kind of think he did. I’ve got two questions: is a lie justified if it’s for something good? And if he hadn’t told that lie, could ObamaCare have been passed? If he had come out and said, ‘Yeah some of you are gonna lose your plans and you’re gonna have to pay more,’ do you think that law that squeaked through by that much [Maher held up two fingers barely apart] would have passed?”
When one of Maher’s guests, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, responded, “It was not a lie,” Maher protested and said, “Because of ObamaCare, they are not able to keep [insurance plans]. To me, that is a lie.”
Jon Stewart said of the ObamaCare rollout: “Democrats can’t spin this turd.”
“Lies,” “spin” and similar characterizations of ObamaCare by even the president’s court jesters further establish that the worm has turned on the president’s previously vaunted likability.
Polling negative on likability is even worse than the president’s current low rating in a Gallup poll, at a mere 39% job approval.
Job approval is largely about competence at tasks. Likability is about feelings—a personal relationship. Likability is what won Mr. Obama re-election.
The president trounced Mitt Romney in exit polls on the all-important measure of “cares more about people like me” by a margin of 81%-18%—and that swung the election.
But the uncaring that the president has shown with ObamaCare is eroding his likability, robbing him of the Teflon he used to wear as the man who -- even when he failed -- supposedly tried so hard to succeed for the common good.
The president has used ObamaCare to bait, switch, and mislead. That is not likable.
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net. He is a consultant to corporate and political leaders including Steve Forbes.