MSNBC political contributor Howard Fineman said Tuesday in conversation with Hardball host Chris Mathews that “a president with a 43% approval rate isn’t taken seriously by anyone around town.” Fineman’s comments came before Obama delivered his State of the Union Speech on Tuesday.
Fineman predicted, accurately, that the President would have to talk about the small incremental achievements “that he can brag about to help him out of the mess he is in with a 43% approval rating.” Fineman went on to say that there would be no mention of “grand bargains on entitlements or about sweeping tax reform.” As it turned out, the speech paid little attention to climate change and immigration issues, as well.
This is a huge acknowledgement by Fineman, who has been second only to Matthews as chief MSNBC Obama cheerleader. Here’s what Fineman said about Obama’s SOTU speech exactly four years ago today: “If Presidential leadership were only about giving speeches, the jackhammers would already be at work on Mt. Rushmore… I thought the guy dominated the room, used humor, occupied the middle ground. It was both theatrically very good… tactically quite smart.”
Fox News contributors George Will and Charles Krauthammer didn’t have exactly high hopes for the speech either. Will said that Obama was going to have to “avoid talking about foreign policy like the plague.”
Krauthammer added that President Obama has become so weak that he can really only play “small ball” in the speech and has to stay away from too much conversation about larger issues like immigration reform, in fear that he may “poison the atmosphere.” Charles pointed out that in Obama’s first SOTU speech, one month after he was sworn in, he gave an “incredibly ideologically ambitious speech” where he affirmed that he was here to change America “and he said in three ways: healthcare, energy and education.”
He pointed out that these are major items on America’s national agenda, and now “here he is 5 years later speaking about increasing the minimum wage and extending unemployment. That is quite a comedown for a President who saw himself as someone who would change the county and change its ideological trajectory.”