Friday, July 30, 2010

What's Wrong with Velcro?

Poor President Obama.  He has to endure nonsense like the front page LA Times story this morning calling him the "velcro" president, as compared with Ronald Reagan, the "teflon" president.  The thesis of the article is that whatever problems occurred during the Reagan era never seemed to stick to the president, as those surrounding him were better able to absorb responsibility; whereas President Obama seems to attract the blame for everything people are unhappy about during his administration.  As the article states:
Reagan was able to glide past controversies with his popularity largely intact. He maintained his affable persona as a small-government advocate while seeming above the fray in his own administration.
One small problem that undermines this thesis, is that it buys into the enduring myth of Reagan's incredible popularity.  According to Gallup, however, at this exact point in Reagan's presidency, Reagan's approval rating was 42%.  Obama's is currently 45%.  Let me repeat that for the hard of hearing.  HELLO LA TIMES REPORTERS: OBAMA'S APPROVAL RATING IS THREE POINTS HIGHER THAN REAGAN'S!  So why aren't these reporters writing that it is Obama who is actually the teflon president, because he seems to be exceedingly popular despite the difficult times we are still facing, while Reagan is actually the president that people were blaming for whatever problems existed in 1982?  (By the way, I remember 1982, and the problems we had in 1982 were nothing compared to what we are dealing with today.)

There is a second fallacy in this kind of story.  It seems to suggest that having a president who smilingly stays above the fray, and in fact, doesn't seem to have a clue about what is going on all around him, is somehow . . . a good thing.  Whereas having a president who strictly adheres to Truman's "buck stops here" doctrine, and who stays on top of every situation is somehow seen as a problem.  Once again, hello?  Don't we want a president who takes responsibility and who knows what is going on?  Maybe President Obama should embrace the label of "velcro president," and maybe the American people should feel grateful that instead of a president with the "what, me worry?" look of his predecessor, we have an administration that is working hard to solve some very difficult problems.

(This is not an endorsement, just a photo acknowledgement, but you can actually buy these cute velcro patches here.)


  1. The Buck doesn't stop with Obama. A buck is probably worth 50 cents now anyhow. Sherrod was not his fault it was Fox News even though she was fired before Fox ran the story and right after she was fired Glenn Beck said she shouldn't have been fired.

    With Obama, it's someone else.

    Plus Reagan knew how to tell a joke.

  2. I'll grant you that Reagan knew how to tell a joke if you'll grant me that he wasn't as popular as people seem to remember.

  3. << By the way, I remember 1982, and the problems we had in 1982 were nothing compared to what we are dealing with today >>

    Are you sure? I hung a shingle and opened my practice in 1982. Conditions were horrible. The U.S. economy was deeply depressed, with the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Reagan inherited a "misery index" -- unemployment plus inflation – at about 20 percent – the highest since World War II. There was a national out cry that borderd on panic. Inflation and interest rates, both topping 18%. That was so far beyond anything that Americans have experienced in peacetime and so far beyond anything that U.S. financial markets are set up to handle as to inspire a crazy fear. Mortgage rates (30-year fixed) peaked in October 1982 at 18.45%. Take a moment and re-read that.

    To be fair, it wasn't all Carter's fault anymore than it was all Reagan's credit when things appeared to turn around. Neither is our current mess all Bush's fault, nor is it all Obama's that we are stalled. Clinton and Dem Congress get some responsibility. Our problems are much more complex than that. Fannie and Freddie!! The Fed!! Wall Street!! Both Parties!!

  4. I think it is important to remember our Presidents are human beings. The Clinton's daughter (Chelsea) being married today reminds me of that. LBJ's family, The Kennedy kids, the Bush daughters, Nixon's daughter's marriage, Carter's family and our current President's and the First Lady's example of raising kids in the White House. These are real people. Charming, good people. And for anyone who cringes at the thought of the men and women I named of being charming, you may be an ideologue. Can we find a little more love in middle ground?

  5. You're reminding me, KP that 1982 was a difficult year. That was the year that Paul Volcker raised interest rates through the roof to get inflation under control. A lot of people were wondering then if the cure was worse than the disease. But these still feel like more challenging times on a lot of fronts.

    As far as whether Presidents and their families are human beings, I'm with you, except I have trouble thinking of Richard Nixon as a good person.

  6. Ha ha ... I understand your measured comments about Tricky Dick!

    On the view that these times 'feel worse'. They do to me as well. But I am not sure they are. I chalk some of our feelings up to the hubris I had as a 26-27 year old. I wasn't afraid of anything.

    In 1982 I was ready to kick ass and take names. Now, in my mid 50s, as I age and have little to fall back on in the way of financial wealth, I am more fearful than I was in my 20s.

    Fortunately, I am wealthy in the most important ways: family, love and spirituality. I try to remember that when I view the incompetance of both parties and feel frustrated politically.

    Today, I am deeply concerned. I am concerned about my ability to access the kind of health care I want when I will need it most (the next three decades). I am concerned for our the issues of our national security vs the cost of war. I am very concerned about unsustainable entitlements to state and federal public employees on the back of the private sector. Our debt frightens me. I am very upset by Fannie and Freddie and that FinReg ("Franken-Dodd") did nothing to address that issue. I have 20 and 23 year old daughters. We (America) have been screwing them for years. Again, I go back to Congress and the Fed; incredible imcompetence. MY frustration is not with Obama. It's with both parties and it is deep seeded.