“If your credibility is under attack, the first thing you need to do is restore it,” he said. “They have to work hard to get out in front of it.”
For more than a century, presidents have run into unforeseen problems in their second terms. Most recently, Nixon was forced from office for the abuses known collectively as Watergate, Ronald Reagan endured the Iran-Contra scandal, Bill Clinton was accused of lying under oath to conceal an affair and was impeached, and George W. Bush watched unpopular wars and the poor response to Hurricane Katrina sink his popularity.
For Obama, it hasn’t been just three things.
His Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, is under fire for soliciting donations from companies her agency might regulate to help sign up uninsured Americans for the new health care law, Obama’s signature achievement.
“Typically, second-term presidents are out of steam,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas. “The president himself is holding up pretty well, but in his heart of hearts he’s got to be sick of the intractability.”
Experts say the crises have started to take time away from Obama’s priorities. Last Friday, a day Obama wanted to devote to the implementation of his health care law, he and his staff were fielding questions about the IRS and new reports on the fatal attack in Libya.
The president continues to focus on his priorities, Carney said, including a rewrite of immigration laws and solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems.
“The president is focused on what he believes the American people expect from him and from their leaders in Washington,” he said. “And you have seen that, and you will continue to see that in the days and weeks and months ahead.”
Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, said that so far the issues hadn’t affected the president’s approval ratings, which have hovered consistently in the high 40s or low 50s. Miringoff doesn’t expect that to change.
“I don’t think these are things that connect with voters,” he said, though cautioning, “You don’t want to start having dots connect to form a broader picture.”