Poking At The President: Thorns In Obama's Side New polls show that nearly 6 in 10 Americans approve of President Obama's performance so far. But he has his critics. And they can sting.
NPR logo Poking At The President: Thorns In Obama's Side

Poking At The President: Thorns In Obama's Side

Thorns in Obama's side (clockwise from top left): House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH); columnist Charles Krauthammer; Sen. David Vitter (R-LA); Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); radio host Rush Limbaugh; and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA). AP/Washington Post Composite hide caption

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AP/Washington Post Composite

Despite a host of woes — the global economy, military conflicts, climatic challenges — the bloom is still on the rose for President Obama. But more and more thorns are beginning to appear.

It's true that his approval rating has slipped some in the past few days, but two new polls — one from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, and another from NPR — reveal that 59 percent of Americans still have positive personal feelings toward the president. Under the aforementioned circumstances, that's not bad.

By contrast, Bill Clinton's approval rating in March 1993 — just a couple of months into his less-tumultuous first term — was 52 percent. "Bill Clinton got no honeymoon," says presidential historian Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "More people actually agreed with Clinton's policies than liked him."

When it comes to the present president, Sabato says, "Far more people like Obama as a person, more than they like his policies, such as the stimulus plan and health care."

A president "will always benefit from constructive criticism," Sabato says, "and sometimes from unconstructive criticism."

He adds, "You wouldn't want it any other way. It's called democracy."

Eight weeks in office, Obama already has his share of detractors — not even counting former Vice President Cheney. They are burrs in his saddle, ants at his picnic, thorns in his side. Here is a partial list:

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): As House minority leader, Boehner has ragged on many of Obama's decisions, including lifting the ban on stem cell research and the president's decision to sign the $410 billion omnibus spending bill last week. "The president missed a golden opportunity to really fulfill his campaign commitment to not sign bills that have a lot of wasteful spending and are overburdened with earmarks," Boehner said at a news conference on the day Obama signed the spending bill. "If you look at the earmark reforms that he proposed, the question I have is, 'Where's the beef?' "

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): The House Republican whip criticized Obama's spending proposals and called the president's stem cell research decision a "divisive action that will divert scarce federal resources away from innovative and proven adult stem cell research."

Charles Krauthammer: An opinion columnist syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group, Krauthammer has pooh-poohed many of Obama's decisions — foreign and domestic. He wrote that few presidents "undertake the kind of brazen deception at the heart of Obama's radically transformative economic plan, a rhetorical sleight of hand so smoothly offered that few noticed."

Rush Limbaugh: The radio host not only says he would like to see Obama fail, he rages against Obama all the time. Here's an excerpt from a recent show: "There are two premises. One premise is: America loves Obama. The other premise is: America dislikes Obama's policies. What to do? They love Obama, but don't like what he's doing. Very simple. He stays president, we seize his teleprompter, and we send somebody out there to speak who understands economic growth while Obama stays president. That way, everybody will love Obama and we'll get economic growth."

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): The Senate Republican leader has crossed swords with Obama on several issues already, including the president's reversal of the ban on stem cell research. "The administration's announcement on embryonic stem cell research represents a troubling shift in U.S. policy. With this announcement, the government is, for the first time, incentivizing the creation and destruction of human embryos at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer," McConnell said.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA): At just about every turn — on Obama's spending plan, on Obama's lifting the ban on stem cell research, on Obama's decision to make Hilda Solis secretary of labor — Vitter has criticized the president. "The budget presented by the Obama administration," Vitter said, "seems irresponsible at best."