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Congress Bailing, Obama Flailing: So much for governing

US Capitol Building at Sunrise

The Capitol building is seen at sunrise on Capitol Hill in Washington.Reuters

Good thing the government shutdown is over, because now Washington can get down to solving some big national problems.

What’s that? Not happening? Yep, it may be mid-November, but Congress is basically done for the year, at least according to Politico.

As for President Obama, he may be done for the rest of his term, at least as far as popularity goes, according to National Journal.

Taken together, these reports suggest that ObamaCare has exacted a heavy toll, and that a paralyzed capital isn’t going to get less dysfunctional any time soon.

It’s strange to think that closing down the government will be the only thing that makes the highlight reel for 2013. It’s pretty clear nothing is happening on immigration reform, the one issue where the administration might have found common ground with Marco Rubio Republicans looking to repair the party’s tattered relationship with Hispanics. And there’s no grand budget bargain in the offing, just another short-term fix to avoid another shutdown.

The only real question is whether the president will be forced to either delay the individual mandate or take action to prevent millions from being kicked off their health plans—as even Bill Clinton is now saying he should do.

The media will soon turn their attention to the midterms, and not much will get done during the combat year of 2014.

As Politico reports, “The Senate is full of motion, working on passing a slew of bills that the House has little appetite for taking up. House GOP aides are already branding the increase in activity as an attempt to distract Americans from ObamaCare’s problems.

“In short, if there are hopes of sending President Barack Obama the comprehensive immigration bill so many have lobbied for, or the Employee Non-Discrimination Act before 2014, they’re likely to be dashed.

“It would be a fitting end to 2013, a year devoid of the landmark legislation that both parties say the nation needs.”] Some people, of course, are probably happy to see Congress limiting itself to hearings and bloviating.

In this vein, Obama’s popularity is of more than academic interest. A weakened president doesn’t have the clout to bang heads and force action in a divided Congress.

As National Journal observes, second-term presidents don’t recover their political standing once it’s eroded:

“Another war helped bring about a more recent president's downfall. George W. Bush never topped 50 percent after March 2005 and spent most his remaining tenure mired in the low to mid-30s, thanks in part to the unpopularity of the Iraq War. His approval further declined near the end of his presidency, when the financial crisis of 2008 left the economy in tatters.

“In fact, no president in the last 60 years has watched his approval ratings bounce back during their second term.”

On that point, a new Quinnipiac survey has Obama's approval down to 39 percent.

The future is impossible to predict. But it looks like a long slog ahead for both parties.

The Elizabeth Warren Fantasy

As I mentioned yesterday, the Elizabeth Warren boomlet is more of a media story than a political reality.

In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 66 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters say they will support Hillary, while 14 percent say they would vote for another Democratic candidate. That can change, sure, but it suggests a really united party.

The poll had mixed results for media fave Chris Christie. Some 32 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters say they would back Chris Christie for president, while 31 percent would back another GOP candidate. I say that’s not bad for a New Jersey governor who hasn’t been on the national stage for long.

But as NBC’s First Read points out, “He over-performs among women (35%), minorities (46%), seniors (48%), and people in the Northeast (57%) -- you know, the folks who don’t dominate Republican primaries! But he under-performs among men (28%); Republicans ages 18-29, a la the Rand Paul crowd (15%); upper-income Republicans (26%); and residents in the Midwest (30%), South (27%), and West (22%) – or the Republicans who DO DOMINATE Republican primaries.”

Keep in mind, though, that we’re undoubtedly looking at a splintered field.

Yahoo Bets On Journalism

Interesting news that top New York Times political writer Matt Bai is joining Yahoo News—this a few weeks after Times tech columnist David Pogue signed up. 

Sounds like Marissa Mayer wants to get more heavily into the content business. 

Top Twitter Talk 

Dems to Obama: See ya!

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.