The GOP's Christmas Gift to the President

By Clive Crook

The president will have a more relaxed Christmas, I imagine, than the one he was expecting a month ago. His poll ratings have improved a lot in the past few weeks. It's too soon for him to be confident of re-election, obviously, but things are looking up.

Why? One possibility is that his new and more partisan posture--the Kansas speech, class warfare and all that--is paying off. I doubt it though. If I were advising him, I'd still caution against the newly pronounced "them and us" line, for reasons I've gone into before. But I could be wrong and we'll see.

The economy is showing tentative signs of recovery. That helps, and if the trend continues it will be the best possible news for Obama. The troop withdrawal from Iraq was another plus. But my guess would be that the main thing helping Obama right now is the performance of the Republicans. What more could they have done, really, to boost support for the president?

The debates, and even more the GOP's response to them, makes one wonder about Democratic black ops. They might have been carefully orchestrated to repulse independent voters. The party is not just persistently unimpressed with Romney, who nonetheless remains the putative front-runner: that would be bad enough. Even worse are the serial infatuations, implosions and repudiations. (Herman Cain? Newt Gingrich?) These attest to a kind of collective mental unfitness.

Then, to cap it all, the payroll tax fiasco. Republicans for higher taxes! On one side, the House GOP at its most unruly and shambolic; on the other, Senate and White House united in bipartisan moderation. Maybe somebody out there is impressed and wants to see these people in charge, but the swing voters who will settle this election certainly don't.

Merry Christmas, Mr President. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/12/the-gops-christmas-gift-to-the-president/250485/