Coburn not optimistic
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, who is a personal friend of Obama's but an ideological foe, said Friday that he's not optimistic about lawmakers and the president working together.
“I don't know why (the president) would want to be involved in a pitched battle for the next couple of years,” Coburn said. “But that's what it looks like it's shaping up to be.”
Coburn was referring mainly to battles in Congress over deficit reduction and reforming Medicare and Social Security, but the president also is planning to push immigration and gun control legislation that will be controversial.
Coburn was in the U.S. House for President Bill Clinton's second term and in the U.S. Senate for President George W. Bush's second term. Neither of those second terms produced major accomplishments.
Coburn said Obama should use his second term to be honest about the nation's financial problems and to try to shore up Medicare.
“The question is: Do they want to solve problems or do they want to continue in denial?” Coburn said.
At a news conference last week, the president said his first term had been “busy and productive.”
“And I expect the same for the next four years,” he said.
“I intend to carry out the agenda that I campaigned on — an agenda for new jobs, new opportunity and new security for the middle class.”
Obama said the paralysis in Washington was attributable to “some very stark differences in terms of policy, some very sharp differences in terms of where we stand on issues.”
Obama will begin his second term with an approval rating of 52 percent, according to two recent polls. University of Oklahoma political science professor and polling expert Keith Gaddie said the president likely would maintain ratings close to that, in the absence of another recession or a scandal, because he's consistent with his base of supporters.
“With Obama, it's all about defending social programs,” Gaddie said. “Everything else is negotiable.”
President George W. Bush left office with the lowest approval ratings since President Richard M. Nixon, because the economy was in a tailspin, the Iraq War was unpopular, and people were upset about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, Gaddie said.
Obama will enjoy good public approval if he fights for his proposals, rather than being passive, Gaddie said.
“If the economy starts booming, he finishes the term as an incredibly popular president,” Gaddie said.