By Doug McKelway, ,
Published December 21, 2015
With polls showing a precipitous decline in President Obama’s honesty ratings, and two influential barometers of trust giving him “pants on fire” and “Pinocchio” awards for his ObamaCare comments, some analysts question if the president’s effectiveness can be resurrected.
A Fox News poll conducted December 14-16 asked respondents "Is Barack Obama honest and trustworthy? Some 45% said yes and 49% said no.
In April of 2009, when voters were asked the same question, 73% said yes and only 22% said no.
What poll numbers convey in precision, two other trust indicators -- Politifact and the Washington Post's Fact-Checker column -- have conveyed in derision. They awarded the president a "pants on fire" award and "four Pinocchios" respectively for his repeated assurances that Americans could keep their insurance plans, hospitals, and their doctors.
Having been handed these year-end lumps of coal, it is no secret that the president's fortunes have fallen. Some political analysts say a bigger question is whether his effectiveness can be resurrected for the remainder of his second term.
"If the website had rolled out badly but the plan promise had been kept, again it would have been a containable problem," says Walter Russell Mead, editor at large of The American Interest, and a professor at Bard College.
"It's when you get the two of them working together, that you have something that really kind of stirs a lot of people and gets to a place in the public consciousness that is hard to erase."
Asked last week whether the “Pinocchios” and "pants on fire" labels will be cemented in history, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "End-of-the-year categorizations like that are always fun, even when they don't jive with past characterizations of the very same statement."
He added, "We have owned and acknowledged where that rollout this fall has not been up to the standards that we expected and where there have been problems."
The record of recovery from past presidential missteps is mixed. President George W. Bush's never fully escaped the "Mission Accomplished" shipboard banner and sustained criticism of the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan were a constant impediment to his legislative agenda.
Nor did Bill Clinton escape the label of lying for the Monica Lewinsky episode. But he managed to compile a strong record in his second term.
President George H.W. Bush lost his bid for a second term after his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge. But perceptions of a weak economy may have played a bigger role in sealing his fate.
Obama may have a larger problem, given lingering questions about other crises including blaming the Benghazi terrorist attack on an anti-Muslim film and setting a red line on Syrian chemical weapons, then later claiming, "I didn't set a red line, the world set a red line." In addition, he called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court "transparent" in the face of the Edward Snowden leaks that suggested otherwise.
Contributing to the public’s skepticism is the administration's resistance to providing to Congressional oversight committees requested documentation about IRS targeting of conservatives, the science behind many EPA regulations, and more.
Still, as in past administrations, Americans today may be more willing to forgive if they perceive economic improvement over the next three years, and if they start experiencing a healthcare system that works more like what they were promised.