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NSA Scandal Seems to Have Done Serious Damage to Obama’s Image

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Monday June 17, 2013 7:40 am

It appears the recent revelations about the NSA surveillance programs and President Obama’s less than honest defense of them has done some real damage to his standing with the American people.

According to a new CNN poll, Obama’s job approval rating is now negative. Only 45 percent approve of how he is handling his job while 54 percent disapprove. This is the lowest it has been in CNN’s poll since 2011.

Even more concerning for Obama is that for the first time a majority of the country doesn’t see him as honest and trustworthy. The poll found 49 percent view him as trustworthy while 50 percent do not. This may not seem terrible, but this is a nine point drop in the number who see him as honest in less than a month. Back in May, 58 percent said Obama was honest.

Once you lose the public’s trust it becomes much harder to defend your actions going forward because you will no longer be given the benefit of the doubt.

Obama doubles down on NSA defense as poll numbers slip

By Justin Sink, The Hill

06/17/13 05:57 PM ET

The interview underscored the defensive posture the White House has adopted in recent weeks, with the president arguing that the NSA spying is “transparent” despite Rose noting that the independent court created to monitor the program served essentially as a rubber stamp.

(A) new poll released Monday by CNN found significant damage to the president’s brand.

Half of those surveyed said they do not believe the president to be trustworthy, the first time a majority has held that opinion. Moreover, the president lost 10 points among independents and 17 points among those under 30, suggesting widespread unease about the programs.

Phil Singer, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, said Obama’s task is complicated by other controversies, including the Internal Revenue Service’s admitted targeting of conservative political action groups and the Justice Department’s investigations into reporters.

Obama has come under fire from the left for attacking Bush’s policies as a candidate but then employing similar policies as president. Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old contractor who leaked the programs to the press, said he did so in part from disappointment with Obama.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said public perceptions that Obama has somehow shifted on the use of surveillance programs since entering the White House is a problem.

“The issue is especially challenging given that there had been an expectation going back to the 2008 campaign that the choice between civil liberties and national security was a false choice,” said Lehane. “He has the double burden of both trying to justify the policies and make clear how they are in fact consistent with the political brand he established as far back as 2008.”

Strategists say the White House needs to regain control of the news cycle to prevent the slip in the polls from becoming a permanent downward spiral.

“Over the last several months, events have dictated this president instead of this president dictating events,” Singer said.

Surveillance programs divide Democrats


6/17/13 4:29 PM EDT

And in a politically peculiar moment – in which liberal icons like Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, up for reelection next year in a purple state, have loudly endorsed the National Security Agency tactics – the issue creates a vacuum into which a candidate on the left end of the spectrum could step into the 2016 fight.

Indeed, the darling of the progressive left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), may be the only person who could easily thread the needle on this issue, having come to Congress just this year (her aides insist she is not running for president). But she – like most prominent Democratic elected officials – has had a muted response to the NSA, suggesting she’s waiting to see how it plays out.

Still, the atmosphere created by the NSA’s tactics could be ripe for a new figure on the left – if not Warren, then perhaps a Democratic primary challenger to a sitting senator. The goal wouldn’t necessarily have to be winning an election but using the campaign as a launchpad to become a progressive icon.

“I think Democrats are ultimately going to have a hard time jumping on the side of the progressive left” on national security, said foreign policy blogger Steve Clemons. “Democrats have tried so much to rid themselves of the Vietnam taint that they couldn’t be trusted … to make national security decisions.”

The prospective Democratic field includes governors who have had little to do with such national security decisions (Andrew Cuomo, John Hickenlooper, the fairly hawkish Martin O’Malley), but also senators who voted to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, for instance).

Voting to renew FISA may be a potential negative for senators eyeing higher office. But Clinton and Biden have an inside-the-tent perspective on the Obama White House that other prospective nominees don’t.

When the initial NSA disclosures were made in news outlets in the past few weeks, a 2006 interview in which Biden told CBS News that the Bush-era snooping was “very intrusive” got new traction. “I was talking about a different program then,” Biden told a pool reporter following him last weekend about then versus now. “It was a different program.”

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the liberal blog Daily Kos, said he doesn’t “anticipate anything” being said by either Biden or Clinton on this front in the foreseeable future – unless issues like old interviews force the matter, and even then, only rhetorically.

“Both have presidential designs, and no president (or wannabe president) willingly gives up executive power,” Moulitsas, who has been deeply critical of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for defending the NSA programs, said in an email.

In a signal of the difficulties facing any presidential hopeful who isn’t a governor, Moulitsas added, “Rather than be outraged by this gross violation of our constitutional freedoms, Congress has, in mostly bipartisan fashion, decided to lecture us on how they are only lying to the public for its own good. I just wish we had more whistleblowers, and more U.S. companies talking about what the government is trying to make them do.”


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