Cardella: Vigilance – Not Panic

An NBC Marist poll shows Joe Biden’s approval rating has sunk to 42%. That sounds bad. Just to make sure that you understand how bad it is, the president’s sinking poll numbers, in news coverage, is characterized as hitting “historic lows.” Biden doesn’t have a clue. He’s reading the instructions off his teleprompter. Maybe it’s time to invoke the 25th amendment. Or impeach him outright? America is having a panic attack. Or is it?

Let’s take a look at Biden’s fading poll numbers. Are polls still credible? The last two elections suggest they’re not. Polling missed Trump votes in both elections. Is the same thing happening with Biden’s vote this time around?

There’s another factor. It’s early. Anyone care to predict what the pandemic and economy will be like in 2024? Even if you assume Biden’s approval rating of 42% is correct, care to guess what Trump’ approval rating was when he left office? According to Gallup, Trump left the presidency with an approval rating of 34%. Trump’s approval rating was the lowest since they first began taking the poll in 1938. Biden doesn’t look nearly so bad when his “low” poll numbers are compared with Trump’s.

Rather than put Biden’s poll numbers in perspective, the media charge ahead, examining the No. 1 reason they believe that Biden is “unpopular.” Inflation. But here, too, the mainstream media paint a misleading narrative. Let’s stipulate that inflation is real. Here’s a recent example off my Facebook (Meta) page. A man posts comments blaming Biden for increased gas prices at the pump. The one tangible action a president can take in a time of rising gas prices is he can, within obvious limits, tap the national reserves. Biden took that action — an action presidents have taken before in similar circumstances. According to the Center and Economic Policy Research website, dated Nov. 24, the media is overblowing the extent of the inflation problem.

The source contends that both CNN and the New York Times have used incredibly unrealistic examples to prove the extent of the injury inflation is doing to families. CNN’s “milk” story requires a typical family to use an atypical amount of milk. You know anyone who buys 12 gallons of milk a week? The same with the NYT’s example, which used a grossly atypical one-person example to “prove” that the increase in gas prices is alarming for motorists. As I said to my wife when she complained about food prices going up, the reason we got a bump in our Social Security and federal pension checks was to account for the increase in the cost of living. And if you’re not buying a used car that accounted for 20% of the inflation number alone, it doesn’t seem nearly as bad.

The same CEPR article cites an interview by National Public Radio with Tony Fratto, deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush. In the interview, Fratto criticized Biden drawing down strategic oil reserves to help lower the price of gas. Fratto disingenuously makes it appear that Biden’s action is extreme when it isn’t. We’ll leave for another time why sources not normally hyper-critical of Biden have turned on him when hyping the magnitude of inflation. Look, Biden is a big boy. He has to handle the criticism, fair or not. Biden can point to all the economic gains minimizing the inflation problem, including the 52-year-low rate of unemployment and the significant increase in wages. But perception is often reality in presidential politics. If the public is being hit with daily stories about the rising rate of inflation and of Biden’s fall in the polls, that perception becomes the reality. Meantime, the likely 2024 Republican candidate for president is calling out Biden on inflation, hoping to divert public attention from all the damning information about his role in an attempted insurrection against the government on Jan. 6. Trump’s torrent of lies and denials are surely hurting Biden more.

Even liberal institutions such as the NYT are acting as enablers for Trump. Any reasonable analysis of the upcoming race for the White House MUST include a wide, all-encompassing accounting of the facts. Without a complete hearing of the facts surrounding the mob action against our nation’s Capitol, we can’t have a valid comparison between Biden and Trump. Without the facts of Jan. 6, we risk the focus being exclusively on the mundane facts that can influence an incumbent president’s popularity numbers. Facts that pale in importance when your opponent might have led a coup against American democracy.

At the very least, we have a right to hold institutions such as CNN, the NYT and NPR to a higher standard in their coverage of the Biden presidency. If these highly regarded critics of the past administration have been cowed into sloppy reporting because of some phony attempt at objectivity, they must take off the shackles right now. The danger is too great if they don’t. The evil is too real. The next presidential election may seem as if it is too far off to already be worried about now. But those who seek to undermine our democracy have been busy. While the media’s focus has been inflation, they have been working in the dark of night to rig or overturn the next election, to make sure your vote doesn’t count. We can’t afford to be caught asleep at the gates.

Jan. 6 proved the barbarians are already inside the gates.