This is a typical Villager panel discussion that makes me want to throw something through the TV set. Extoll the virtues of bipartisanship for its own
September 2, 2009

This is a typical Villager panel discussion that makes me want to throw something through the TV set. Extoll the virtues of bipartisanship for its own sake, everything is win or lose and about politics, like it's some game, and never take any responsibility for your own network not making sure the voters are more informed.

Apparently Bob Cesca felt the same way after watching a some of yesterday's media coverage of these poll numbers. They're Hurting America:

The disconnect, as John Cole points out, is the corporate media. They've been predictably covering the politics-as-sports debate, but not the intracacies of the policy, which they ought to be doing. So it's not surprising that cable news is leading the charge in suggesting that it's the president who hasn't been forthright enough. Let it be said that the media never misses an opportunity to make excuses for its massive breaches of integrity.

But let's say for a moment that the president explained reform and the public option perfectly. Exactly like the press is prescribing. Even then, they'd very likely 1) find another anti-reform meme to inject into their "smackdowns" and half-time shows, and 2) they'd still be inviting serial liars like Mike Pence, unabashed morons like Maria Bartiromo, and centrist capitulators like Harold Ford onto their air to spread misinformation about reform and further confuse viewers.

The one thing I agree with the CNN panel on though is that the President has not done a good enough job of laying out some details of what he wants to see in this legislation, and it's helped them muddy the waters. Bob's right though. It would probably make little difference with what the media coverage looked like.

MALVEAUX: Also joining me is CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

What does it mean, Gloria, for the president to be losing out on these Independents?

BORGER: I think it's a real possible for him. Remember that President Obama won the election with 52 percent of Independent voters. That number is down considerably to 43 percent, and Independents are the margin of difference here for him.

Now, the key to keeping those people is, right now, they are worried about the deficit. They see the president as a big spender. They see him aligned with so-called liberal leaders in the Democratic Congress. So, what he's got to do when -- after Labor Day is kind of show them that he is the kind of so-called post-partisan president that many of them thought they were electing.

The good news for President Obama in this is that they are not realigning themselves with the Republicans yet, because the Republican Party still has very high disapproval ratings.

Now, Jessica, you've been watching something as well, which it looks like to be a generational gap in these numbers.

YELLIN: Absolutely. Well, we know the president did exceptionally well with the young during the election, and that has held strong. Sixty-five percent of the young still approve of the job the president is doing, but it's seniors that we keep talking about, especially in light of health care reform.

He has only a 42 percent approval with seniors. That's very low, and that's right now. So, our numbers don't necessarily tease out that it's because of health care reform, but it's likely that this is a direct effect of the current debate. And if the president is able to get some sort of health care bill through, if he's strong on seniors, protecting them, protecting their Medicare, we could see that number rebound.

BORGER: But don't forget, they're going to have to take on Social Security at some point, and that could cause some more problems.

YELLIN: Ah, that's next year. We'll worry about it later.

MALVEAUX: Well, it almost seems like a perfect storm here of some pretty bad numbers, bad poll numbers.

Ed, how does the White House deal with this?

HENRY: Well, you're right, and that's why we saw the president today jump on this new manufacturing report, suggesting, look, maybe there's been some growth out there in the economy, because the jobless numbers still very poor. You add that to health care, as you've been saying, and what we just talked about with Afghanistan, it is almost like a perfect storm for this president.

But what they say inside this building is, look, they heard a lot of this talk in the first 100 days, during the debate about the stimulus, that that all was lost. The president put his chips on the table, fought it out, and he won on the stimulus. They realize he's unlikely to get everything he wants on health care right now, but they are still very confident he's going to get at least a scaled-back bill that he can call a victory before the end of the year -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Ed.

And I'm wondering, if we're looking at these numbers, how health care actually impacts his job approval and how he's been doing so far. Has he increased in support?


MALVEAUX: Are people beginning to catch on to this, or is that getting worse?

BORGER: No. I think health care is a big part of the problem.

I think what the president has to do going forward is get a clear message about what he's really selling with health care reform. Is it universal access? Is it deficit reduction? Is he taking on the big, bad insurance companies? Is he going to save health care?

I mean, he doesn't have a clear message yet, which is why seniors are worried about this.

YELLIN: I do think that once he's really back in the game, Congress is back in session, we'll see the White House very strong with a clear message on where he stands on health care reform. And if he does that and if he gets a win, his numbers will go up, at least for a while, because everybody likes a winner. A win always bounces numbers.

MALVEAUX: And Ed, one of the things the numbers seem to be showing is that he's getting more support from Democrats, less support from Republicans.

How does he deal with bipartisanship in Washington, bringing health care reform, when it looks like the country is even more polarized now?

HENRY: It does. It's very difficult, and it seems more and more, when you look at the situation in the Senate, that, as Jessica was saying, that we're a pretty polarized nation, and that it's probably going to continue to be a polarized health care debate. And he's more likely to go down the route of using this procedural maneuver of just using only Democratic votes.

That's only going to polarize the nation more and suggest that he's not bringing people together. The White House is going to say, look, we've tried to work with Republicans, they haven't come along for the ride, and they're very likely to just go the partisan route to get some sort of a victory here. And I think he's going to -- as Gloria was saying, have to get more specific on health care -- going to have to get more specific about the mission in Afghanistan, too, to explain the stakes to the American so that those numbers don't continue to slide.

MALVEAUX: OK. Ed, Gloria, Jessica, thank you very much for making sense of all those poll numbers. We'll see how it works out.

Can you help us out?

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