by Larry Elder
The media's role in shaping perceptions.
Conservative watchdog organization Media Research Center examined the nightly news coverage of President Donald Trump on ABC, NBC and CBS in January and February and concluded that the stories were 91 percent negative. One consistent narrative, particularly given the recent firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, is that "chaos" reigns in the Trump White House.
Never mind that President Barack Obama went through four secretaries of defense and five chiefs of staff. Obama, goes the narrative, calmly navigated the country during his eight-year tenure. Trump, on the other hand, is reckless, dangerous, undisciplined and out of control.
Never mind that the U.S. consumers' confidence is at a level not seen since the early 2000s. Forget the increased value in the stock market, and the appreciation in average home value since the beginning of the Trump presidency. ISIS fighters have been killed or surrendered in the thousands. North Korea's Kim Jong Un has agreed to resume talks about "denuclearization." The Middle East did not set itself on fire when Trump agreed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After nearly 14 months, even many Democrats admit they still, after a year of investigations, see no evidence of "collusion" between Russia and the Trump campaign.
But things just look ... chaotic.
President "No-Drama Obama" did indeed successfully push Obamacare through Congress and signed it into law. When the House Democrats first revealed what eventually became Obamacare, the Wall Street Journal called it "the worst bill ever." The Journal wrote: "With spending and debt already at record peacetime levels, the bill creates a new and probably unrepealable middle-class entitlement that is designed to expand over time. Taxes will need to rise precipitously, even as ObamaCare so dramatically expands government control of health care that eventually all medicine will be rationed via politics." The law did not, as Obama routinely promised, save every family $2,500 a year. Obamacare did not, as the President insisted, "bend the cost curve" down. PolitiFact gave Obama their 2013 "Lie of the Year" award for telling the American people, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," a guarantee that Obama made even when he knew it was not true.
As commander in chief, the no-drama President signed the Iran deal that critics argue puts the world's No. 1 sponsor of terror on a path toward getting a nuclear bomb. Obama's first secretary of defense, Robert Gates, said Obama based the deal on a "hope that over a 10-year period with the sanctions being lifted that ... they will abandon their ideology, their theology, their revolutionary principles, their meddling in various parts of the region." Gates called this hope "unrealistic."
On the economy, Obama signed a $787 billion so-called stimulus package, averaged $100 billion in new regulations every single year of his presidency, and promoted the silly, wasteful "cash for clunkers" and the equally silly and wasteful "cash for caulkers." Obama defenders argue that the recession Obama dealt with was particularly severe.
Yet historically, the deeper the recession, the higher the bounce back. Not so under Obama. The recession President Ronald Reagan dealt with was worse, at least by the metrics the Democrats and the media once used until those very metrics made Democrats look bad.
Unemployment, for example, under Obama reached 10 percent. Under Reagan, it reached 10.8 percent. Inflation was 3.8 percent the year before Obama took office, but dropped to 1.3 percent his last year. Under Reagan, it was 13.5 percent the year before he took office, but dropped to 4.1 his last year. Prime interest rates under Obama, again, were 3.25 percent when he entered office, and remained low at 3.75 when he left. Under Reagan, prime interest rates climbed as high as 20.5 percent and dipped as low as 7.5 percent.
It was a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who, in running against President Gerald Ford in 1976, use the "misery index." It was simple. Just add up unemployment, plus inflation. The bigger the number, the worse the economy. Carter pointed out that under Ford, the misery index had gone up. Unfortunately for Carter, when he ran for reelection in 1980, Reagan pointed out that the misery index under Carter had grown even larger. Under Obama, at its worst point, the misery index reached 12.97 in 2011. During Reagan's administration, the misery index was at its worst point when he entered office, at 19.33.
Obama, who supposedly governed without drama, delivered the worst recovery since 1949. On the economy and on foreign policy, he signed costly legislation and pushed counterproductive policies. Do Americans want a president who ultimately does the right thing or a president who racks up style points while making one blunder after another?
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