What are the reasons for the rapid decline of Barack Obama's authority and reputation?
On the same weekend as memories, analyses, reports and interviews in newspapers and television programs all over the world dealt with the myth that is John F. Kennedy 50 years after his death, London magazine The Economist published a damning verdict on the current, 44th — and first black — U.S. president, Barack Obama. The picture on the front page of what is perhaps the most influential weekly periodical in the English-speaking world was of Obama wearing a dark suit with a red tie and standing up to his neck in water, with the headline "The Man Who Used to Walk on Water.”
Can the 52-year-old who was elected to a second term in office as president in 2012 still win back the trust of the people? What are the reasons for the rapid decline of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s authority and reputation, who was a symbol of hope for many?
With 50 million Americans without health insurance, Obama's much-vaunted health care reform was the core reform of his presidency. Using the online health insurance system will be just as simple as ordering a TV from Amazon, the president said at the end of September. Without thorough preparation and testing, the website quickly crashed. According to the most recent surveys, 57 percent of Americans are against the so-called "Obamacare" system, nearly 55 percent disapprove of his administration and only 42 percent are in favor of him. After his countless promises, millions of people are not just disappointed; they are angry about the chaotic state of the insurance system and doubt his honesty. In a Washington Post-ABC poll, almost 60 percent of those surveyed answered "no" to the question of whether Obama is honest and trustworthy. Only just over 40 percent answered "yes." In 2010, it was the other way around: Only 20 percent doubted it and nearly 80 percent were convinced by his honesty.
It remains to be seen whether Obama's team will succeed in changing tack in this crucial domestic policy question. But many foreign policy matters are in a sorry state. Even before the spying scandal, many accused the president of glossing things over and of a lack of sincerity. His empty words about the "red line" regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria have been forgotten, too. Then there is also his lack of a personal relationship with politicians from supposedly friendly states.
Now John F. Kennedy, who was murdered after only 1,000 days in office, is accused of many failures and mistakes by observers. Despite this, he is still admired and is more popular than every politician who came before or after him. Why? He did not just have charisma. Kennedy always understood what inspirational leadership meant for a world power and he was prepared and capable of making use of these inspirational qualities in response to the big issues. The assassination of course spared Kennedy the disappointments which overtake almost every reformer. Obama, once seen as the hope for a new beginning is now, in contrast, seen as an unstable, introverted and weak president.