Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday's throwdowns

Boy, President Obama isn't having a good month:
"Barack Obama’s approval ratings have suffered major declines. The president’s overall job approval number fell from 61% in mid-June to 54% currently. His approval ratings for handling the economy and the federal budget deficit have also fallen sharply, tumbling to 38% and 32%, respectively. Majorities now say they disapprove of the way the president is handling these two issues. The new poll also finds significant declines over the last few months in the percentage of Americans giving Obama high marks for dealing with health care, foreign policy and tax policy."

Republican and conservative arguments are hitting home. Let's keep it going.
Update: in Gallup's daily tracking poll for presidential approval, Obama's approval rate is down to 52%; back in February, it was at 70%.

Why is all this happening? Partly it's because the economy is slow to bounce back, and Obama is beginning to "own" it. Partly it's because people likely are shocked at the government's budget deficit and the cost of proposed health care reforms. And, partly, it's due to Obama's own mistakes--as Victor Davis Hanson rightly points out today:

"...cast-off comments like Obama’s “stupidly” and his ill-informed references about tonsils become more important than they otherwise would. These chance asides mean nothing in isolation, but slowly in toto they are building a portrait of an executive at times ignorant (cf. the fill-up-your-tires mantra of last year), and occasionally mean and partisan. And because his agenda — cap and trade, nationalized health care, stimuli, higher taxes, deficit spending, apology diplomacy — is not really supported by the American people, his own popularity is critical. Lose that, and he loses the rest. The Sotomayor and Holder comments, coupled with Gatesgate, bring up memories of the mess with Reverend Wright and Father Pfleger. The tonsils comment, the Special Olympics gaffe, the historical blunders in Cairo, etc. suggest not a hip, smart, postracial candidate, but an inexperienced, though tough-minded, tribal Chicago pol. If all that results to below 50% approval, there will be an entirely new politics. Unpopular presidents cannot enact unpopular legislation, no matter how once popular they were, no matter how much they blame their predecessors and Wall Street greed."
Bingo. When I've seen and heard Obama lately, he sounds a bit defensive, a bit snippy, a bit irritated at all the questioning of his policies. And that doesn't make you look good.
And by the way, here's more evidence that Obama's comments on Henry Louis Gates and his showdown with the Cambridge cop didn't go over well:
"Americans are more likely to disapprove than approve of how President Barack Obama dealt with the racially tinged dispute between a white police officer and a well-known black Harvard University scholar -- with disapproval especially strong among white voters, according to a poll released Thursday. The July 16 arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. for disorderly conduct in his own home sparked a national debate over racial profiling and police conduct. The controversy intensified after Obama last Wednesday said police in Cambridge, Massachusetts "acted stupidly" when they arrested Gates, who is a friend of his. The poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 41 percent disapproved of Obama's handling of the Gates arrest, compared with 29 percent who approved. The poll also found the incident and Obama's reaction saturated the public consciousness. As many as 80 percent of Americans said they are now aware of Obama's comments on the matter."


There seems to be a growth in interest in soccer in America this summer:

"Last month, the U.S. men’s national team captured the world’s imagination—and about four million American television viewers—as it nearly knocked off Brazil to claim the game’s third most important international trophy, the Confederations Cup. Sunday’s Gold Cup final between a largely second-string U.S. team and Mexico drew nearly 80,000 fans to Giants Stadium in New Jersey, while an estimated two million Americans will attend games this summer featuring some of the best European club teams. U.S. broadcast rights to the UEFA Champions League sparked a bidding war between ESPN and Fox Soccer Channel, and an MLS expansion team in Seattle has become the city’s hottest summer ticket. By next year, MLS will have nine soccer-specific stadiums, offering the same cozy atmosphere of arenas throughout Europe."

And this is all fine with me; indeed, I applaud it. There are good reasons why soccer, with its intensity and at times beautiful passing that sets up goals, is called in the world "the beautiful game." And I very much enjoy watching the passions unleashed every four years with the World Cup.

That all having been said, don't expect soccer to ever supplant baseball and football at the top of the American sports hierarchy. Those sports are well-entrenched, and are an integral part of so many Americans' sports lives. Americans are very busy; how will millions of them find time--the time needed to follow, baseball, football, basketball...AND soccer? Too many of them won't. And soccer still doesn't, I'm convinced, have enough scoring to appeal to many Americans. It's growing in appeal, and that's good; and it can continue to grow, and that's good too. But those who raise their expectations too high are bound to be disappointed.

BASEBALL DIARY: the Tigers finally break loose and get lots of extra-base hits as they defeat Texas, 13-5. What was surprising about it is that the Tigers did it against Scott Feldman, who's been a reliable starter for the Rangers this season. Now the Tigers head to Cleveland--time to win some games.
And the Cubs stayed hot, blasting the Astros 12-0. Rookie pitcher Randy Wells continues to impress. Alfonso Soriano is hot. Are the Cardinals really the hands-down favorite to win the NL Central, as I've heard many commentators suggest? I wonder.