As President Obama finishes the touches on his seventh State of the Union Address, to be delivered tonight at 9 P.M. Eastern Time (come to Reason.com for live blogging and tweeting), here's something he can chew on: Pew Research asked Americans to sum him up in one word.
The most popular choices? "Good/Good man" and "Incompetent." Intelligent is well represented as is "idiot/dumb/stupid," honest, dictator, liar, awesome, and arrogant.
In the interest of #realkeeping, George W. Bush was viewed similarly at this point in his presidency:
At a comparable point in his presidency, incompetent, arrogant andhonest were frequently used descriptions of George W. Bush. Bush's approval rating was lower than Obama's (33% for Bush then, 47% for Obama today) and negative terms were used more frequently to describe him.
Which seems about right.
While most of us will be tuning out tonight's speech, Jack Shafer, now writing at Politico, says the annual speech "isn't completely useless." It's the only speech a prez can expect all the networks to cover, writes Shafer, and there's this:
According to research conducted by political scientists Donna R. Hoffman and Alison D. Howard, about 40 percent of the requests a president makes in a State of the Union speech are enacted in some form as law—a batting average the major leagues haven't seen since Ted Williams. Perhaps presidents have inflated their batting averages by including sure-bet legislative proposals in addresses, but the addresses still frame the White House's intentions, clarify the direction the president's budget will take, focus press corps coverage, and help structure the legislative agenda. Language about an
issue into the State of the Union also has a tendency to increase the public's sense of urgency about it. One study of addresses from 1946 to 2003 found that every 50 words devoted by a president to an issue resulted in a 2 percentage point increase (sometimes temporary) in the public's identification of the issue as America's most important problem. Laugh if you want to, but political revolutions are won by 2 percentage point swings, even temporary ones.
According to Veronique de Rugy's tally here last Friday, Obama batted considerably lower that .400 when it comes to last year's SOTU. Indeed, very few of his proposals became a reality (that's a good thing). Check it out here.