President Obama has won the debate over how to deal with the immigration crisis on the southern border. That is, if you accept the White House's dumbed-down definition of success: Be a little less bad than the Republicans.
You've heard the least-lousy spin before. Obama's job approval ratings are at the lowest point of his presidency, but House Speaker John Boehner's numbers are much lower.
The Democratic Party is bleeding voters to the independent column, but more voters are bolting the GOP.
The public's faith in the presidency it at a near-record low, but lice and cockroaches are statistically more popular than Congress.
It's indisputably true that Obama's first term fell far short of his promise—Americans lost their audacity to hope for change—but he won a second term! After a brutally negative reelection campaign, Republican Mitt Romney was found to be a few percentage points less acceptable than the incumbent. That was no accident. In The Message, a book by liberal author Richard Wolffe, Obama strategist David Axelrod recalls the joke about two men who chance upon a bear in the woods. One freezes. The other starts running, knowing he doesn't have to outrun the bear; he just has to outrun his pal. "So the electorate was the bear," Axelrod says, "but all we had to do was outrun Romney."
The Democratic Party motto ought to be, "We don't suck as much!"
That's the best news out of a Washington Post/ABC News poll on the influx of unaccompanied foreign children along the Texas border. Nearly six out of 10 Americans (58 percent) disapprove of Obama's management of the crisis, including 54 percent of Hispanics.
But, wait, the GOP numbers are worse! This from a liberal mouthpiece:
Yes, two-thirds of those polled disapprove of how Republicans lawmakers have addressed the issues, including about half of all GOP voters.
That should be little consolation for a president who called immigration reform a top second-term priority, a bow to the Hispanic community that gave him 70 percent of its votes and now disapproves of his handling of the border crisis.
Obama blames the failure of reform on House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican lawmakers who won't defy their anti-amnesty base, which is a fair assessment of the situation today. But the president refuses to acknowledge that reforms also failed to pass a Democratic-controlled Congress in 2009 and 2010, when certain leaders of his party—if not the president himself—preferred not to fix the problem and lose a cudgel against Republicans.
Facts are nettlesome things, and competency is not a prerequisite for political success if the other side acts worse. Fortunately for the Democratic Party, the GOP often obliges.
The White House is counting on its least-lousy frame to prevail this fall in red states where Democratic senators are clinging to their seats. The strategy is essentially to tell voters, You're not happy with your Democratic senator or the president, but the Republican challenger is so extreme that don't have an alternative. A GOP candidate like Tom Cotton in Arkansas may be far enough outside the mainstream for the plan to work, as it did in 2010 and 2012 to disqualify some Republican challengers.
The cynical strategy works for Republicans, too. In 2004, President Bush knew the public was turning against him, so he essentially argued that he wasn't as bad as Democrat John Kerry. Today, the House GOP deflects criticism by comparing the size of its warts to the Democrats'.
This is no way to run a country. When both parties in a two-party system measure themselves not by promises kept and problems solved but by the Pyrrhic victories awarded to least-lousy combatants, you get what we've got in this country: Record-low trust in government, a broken political system, and a deeply disillusioned public. These may be the sad legacies of both Boehner and Obama.
To those on the far right and far left who will accuse me of "false equivalence," I beg your pardon and say, OK, the other side sucks a bit more. Feel better? The rest of us don't.