Obama: Let's face it, Congress is hurting my approval rating

Not an absurd claim on its face — in theory, the more people hate “Washington” generally, the more all relevant players should suffer — but it’s astounding to think this is the same guy who swore up and down on the trail that he was going to transform the way D.C. does business. Three years ago his message was, “Elect me and strike a blow for hope.” Now his message is, “Reelect me because Congress is hopeless.” Now that’s Change.

CBS’s edit of the interview doesn’t include Obama’s full answer so here it is in the interest of fairness:

Mason: This past week Congress’ popularity obviously is, they’re, it barely registers. But this past week your popularity hit a record low. What does that say to you?

President Obama: Well, what it says to me is I’m the President of the United States and when people aren’t happy with what’s happening in Washington, that I’m gonna be impacted just like Congress is. And you know I completely understand that, we expected that.

But when you look at how people feel about my approach to deficit reduction or when you look at how people feel about my belief that we’ve gotta continue to invest in education or medical research or making sure that we’re rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our seaports and our airports, when you look at how people feel about the agenda to rebuild America so that it’s competitive in the 21st century that I’ve been promoting over the last couple of years, it turns out that people are supportive of that.

What they’re frustrated right now is they want me to be able to wrangle Congress and get them moving. And you know, we’ve got this thing, separation of powers, and we don’t have a parliamentary system. And it means that there are times where Congress is gonna do things despite what I saw as opposed to because I think this is the right direction for the country.

And that, and that frustrates people understandably. And you’ve got an unemployment rate that is still too high, an economy that’s not growing fast enough. And for me to argue, ‘Look, we’ve actually made the right decisions, things would have been much worse has we not made those decisions,’ that’s not that satisfying if you don’t have a job right now. And I understand that and I expect to be judged a year from now on whether or not things have continued to get better.

Is it true that his numbers are sinking because people are frustrated with Congress? Go back and look at the two main polls that came out immediately after the debt-ceiling deal was struck, when public disgust with back-room bargaining and brinksmanship was at its zenith. CNN’s poll on August 2nd found Congress’s approval rating at 14/84, an all-time low in almost 40 years of polling. Obama’s approval, though, was 45/52 — slightly better than it was in mid-July (45/54) and identical to what it was last October, a month before the midterms. (He rebounded to 54 percent in the interim before starting to sink this summer.) The NYT’s poll on August 3rd also found Congress’s approval rating imploding at 14/82, another record low. But Obama’s rating was 48/47 compared to 46/45 in April. It was as high as 57/37 in May, but began to erode shortly after that. Which is to say, compared to Congress, The One’s numbers were reasonably stable after the debt-ceiling deal. He took a small hit, but that was peanuts compared to the catastrophic loss of public confidence in Congress. Not until later this month, after a new round of terrible economic indicators, chaos on Wall Street, and endless worries about the eurozone did he sink below the 40th percentile in Gallup. It’s the economy, stupid, not Congress that’s dragging him beneath the waves. That’s why his job approval is still stuck at 40 percent after a solid week of Democratic demagoguery about how unpatriotic congressional Republicans have been in failing to put country over party.

Exit question: Could this have something to do with his numbers also? Click the image to watch.