Obama gives himself B+

One wonders who would give the president similar marks to those he gives himself

By Thomas Schaller
December 14, 2009 9:15PM (UTC)
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So Barack Obama, asked by pal Oprah Winfrey to issue himself a first-year grade as president, gave himself a B+. I'm a college professor and he's a former one, but we all know that a B+ indicates a solidly above average, if imperfect, performance. (Although with rampant campus grade inflation, a B+ isn't as far above average as it used to be.)

Passage of health care reform would boost his grade to an A-, he said. Until Americans get back to work, he said, "I can't give myself the grade I'd like."

One wonders who would issue Obama the same grade. Liberals would almost certainly mark him down for his long-awaited, hemmed-and-hawed over decision to send 34K more troops into Afghanistan, for being less than vigilant about the public option, and for being too cozy with Goldman Sach and other Wall Street types. Not sure if our own Glenn Greenwald is going to pipe up, but I'm guessing Glenn would issue a grade somewhere south of B+. Likewise for Jane Hamsher or Matt Taibbi or other leading left lights too numerous to list here.


Then there are the conservative, and well, fugettaboutit. Looks like they already found their way to the Daily News link provided above, and over to the right column where they ask readers to issue their own grades. As of this writing, 53 percent of these non-scientific, self-selected respondents issued Obama an "F."

African-Americans? I suppose if the tug of identity politics is as strong we suspect, there are plenty who would give Obama a B+ or higher. As the president's poll numbers continue to steadily slide lower, you have to believe African-Americans are standing fast with Obama as the core of his approval number.

The point is, very few Americans would probably give Obama a B+. And even if that were the average year-end grade, the distribution would probably be very bimodal. Whatever the case, as the president admits, he's gonna need to hit the books a little harder on jobs in the next 11 months than he did in the first 11 months if he hopes to limit the electoral damage congressional and other down-ballot Democrats suffer come November.

Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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