From a great article in Yahoo!News: “The summer of 2014 is going down as an extraordinary period of social, political and international upheaval and crisis. President Obama and members of Congress left for vacation this month with the expectation of relative calm before a resumption of political wrangling this fall over immigration reform and spending measures – and before a critical mid-term election campaign.
Instead, violence broke out in Ferguson, Mo., after an unarmed black youth was shot to death by a police officer; the world was stunned by a video of the beheading of an American journalist by an Islamic State terrorist in the Middle East; and a humanitarian crisis festered along the U.S.-Mexican border caused by a massive influx of unaccompanied Central American children into this country.
With so much going on, The Fiscal Times asked Dan Balz, The Washington Post’s highly regarded chief political correspondent, to discuss these and other fast-moving developments. Here are portions of the interview conducted on Thursday:
Eric Pianin (EP): With the crisis in Ferguson and the Middle East, what are the optics of President Obama’s continued vacation on Martha’s Vineyard?
Dan Balz (DB): This comes up any time a president is away in August and there’s a crisis. When the Iraqis invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, President [George H.W.] Bush went off to Kennebunkport in a kind of defiant way. I think people respect the fact that even presidents deserve vacations. It is harder today because of the intensity of the media spotlight. The most important thing for Obama is not where he is, but how he is handling himself and do people have confidence in his decisions.
EP: Speaking of confidence levels, a Quinnipiac University poll in July found that 33 percent of voters think President Obama is the worst president since 1945, and his approval rating hovers in the 40 percent range. You’ve covered him from the start: Why does he engender such strong feelings of resentment, even among some Democrats?
DB: For a couple of reasons. I think he is the most polarizing president we’ve ever had, which is to say the difference between the way Democrats feel versus Republicans. That gap is as big as we’ve ever seen. But the second most polarizing president, I believe, was George W. Bush and probably the third most polarizing president was Bill Clinton. The country is polarized and has been polarized about [Obama] since he was elected. We lost sight of that at the time he was elected in 2008.
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The second thing is we are in a time of turmoil. All over the world there is crisis, turmoil, unrest, conflict. Foreign policy for Obama was kind of an anchor. He always got better ratings on foreign policy than he did on handling the economy or health care. His foreign policy numbers have gone down now as a result of just the sense of the world spinning out of control and what do we do about it.
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