Blame the Victim

In a Time magazine piece, reporter Michael Sheerer (and David Axelrod with the assist!) trying out a new meme to explain away President Obama’s descent through the polls: Blame his victims. Here’s Exhibit A:

One explanation for Obama’s steep decline is that his presidency rests on what Gallup’s Frank Newport calls a “paradox” between Obama and the electorate. In 2008, Newport notes, trust in the federal government was at a historic low, dropping to around 25%, where it still remains. Yet Obama has offered government as the primary solution to most of the nation’s woes, calling for big new investments in health care, education, infrastructure and energy. Some voters bucked at the incongruity, repeatedly telling pollsters that even programs that have clearly helped the economy, like the $787 billion stimulus, did no such thing.

“The stimulus has clearly helped the economy.” That’s quite an assumption, given that by the President’s own yardstick, the thing has been a dismal flop. Furthermore, I think voters understand that the stimulus was yet another attempt to borrow from the future to make today a little nice — which is exactly how we got into this mess. So, contrary to Sheerer’s assertion, the American public seems to be quite a bit smarter than your average Beltway reporter and not the other way around.

And now, Exhibit B:

When challenged about his declining popularity, the President tended to deflect the blame — to the state of the economy, the ferocity of the news cycle and right-wing misinformation campaigns. Aides treated the problem as a communications concern more than a policy matter. They increased his travel schedule to key states and limited his prime-time addresses. They struggled to explain large, unpopular legislative packages to the American people, who opposed the measures despite supporting many of the component parts, like extending health insurance to patients with pre-existing conditions or preventing teacher layoffs. “When you package it all together, it can be too big to succeed as a public-relations matter,” says Axelrod.

See? Americans are just too dumb to understand that the health bill is good for them — we can’t see the forest (Obamacare) from the trees (all those “component parts”) we tell pollsters we like. That this bill was passed in the most outrageous way, and that we can plainly see those bits we like are smothered in horse waste — well, we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about the little technical details.

So your average reader, of which Time has literally tens, might read this thing and wonder if maybe he didn’t get it all wrong, if maybe he judged Obama too harshly. And we’ll see lots more of this stuff, going into November.

Don’t fall for it.