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Washington (AFP) – Barack Obama’s second term fumbles have pitched him to record low poll ratings and splintered his credibility with the American people.

But has his presidency reached the point of no return?

History and opinion poll data suggest that when reelected presidents slump in the ratings, it is tough, if not impossible to bounce back.

Obama, stung by the amateurish debut of his health care plan, which has sent fellow Democrats into revolt, is beginning to sense the depth of his woes.

“I do make apologies for not having executed better over the last several months,” he said at a Thursday press conference, punctuated by uncharacteristic mea culpas.

“Am I going to have to do some work to rebuild confidence around some of our initiatives? Yes.”

He had better act fast.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal survey two weeks ago had the president’s approval rating down to 42 percent. A week later, Pew Research put Obama at 41 percent. By Wednesday, Quinnipiac University had him at 39 percent, a new low.

The data suggest Obama can no longer count on the solid floor of support that has sustained his crisis-strewn presidency.

“For the first time it appears that 40 percent floor is cracking,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

But do polls matter for a man who will never again be on the ballot?

Second term presidents enjoy some freedom from the tyranny of their job ratings — and become more obsessed with staving off dreaded lame duck status.

But Obama’s deteriorating image threatens to shred his remaining authority on Capitol Hill — where key priorities, including immigration reform are on life support.

He is also pleading with sanctions-wielding senators for more time to do a nuclear deal with Iran.

And Obama’s unpopularity is spooking Democrats with tough races in next year’s mid-term elections, which may doom his long-shot hopes of seeing his party recapture the House of Representatives.

Already, Obama is getting the cold shoulder from vulnerable Democrats, including Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu who is brandishing her own bill to clean up the Obamacare mess.

Charlie Cook, a renowned political analyst, suggests Obama’s presidency is suffering a “classic case of second term fatigue.”

Bill Clinton saw his second term consumed by a sex scandal, George W. Bush was brought low by Iraq and Ronald Reagan struggled through the Iran-Contra scandal.

Obama’s self-inflicted wound is the jammed Affordable Care Act website and his discredited promise that if Americans liked the health insurance they already had, they could keep it.

The damage is obvious: Quinnipiac found that by 52-44 percent, people thought their president was not honest.

“Any elected official with an eight point deficit is in serious trouble,” Malloy said.

Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney offered the timeworn politician’s trope that his boss did not “spend a lot of time, worrying about ups and downs in polls.”

But no president in the last 60 years who has got into deep polling trouble in their second term has been able to bounce back

Only Dwight Eisenhower and Clinton bettered their approval ratings after one year of their second term before leaving town — and they were popular to start with.

Worryingly for Obama, the president whose polling track he most resembles at this point is George W. Bush, who slunk out of Washington with a pitiful 34 percent approval.

Still, Obama is lucky in his enemies: Republicans are down at 30 percent approval after a government shutdown and debt ceiling debacle last month.

Obama has also defied political logic before — historical portents had suggested that saddled with a sluggish economy and approval ratings of under 50 percent for much of his first term he would not get a second.

After better than expected jobs data last week, some believe if fixes to Obamacare that the president unveiled on Thursday work — a big if — he could be spared long term political damage.

“The question now, is whether he will continue to go down, as Bush did,” said Carroll Doherty, an associate director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

“A lot depends on what happens with the health care law and a lot depends on the economy.”

AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan


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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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