In early March, I wrote a post called “Tears for Piers” about the meltdown of Piers Morgan on Fox Soccer Channel as he watched Arsenal, the soccer team he supports, lose to Tottenham Hotspur, the club’s North London rival. In a tirade the sophistication of which failed to meet the standards of a 3:00 a.m. sports call-in show, Morgan castigated Arsenal’s long-time, hugely-successful manager, Arsene Wenger. He concluded by advising the legendary manager to look at himself and admit that he’s no longer the man for the job.
How, you may be wondering, has Arsenal fared under Wenger since Morgan’s ridiculous rant? Quite well, actually.
Since the loss to Spurs, the Gunners have played 11 matches. They have won 9, drawn 2, and lost none, outscoring the opposition 21-5 in the process.
The two draws came against Everton (0-0) and EPL champions Manchester United (1-1). Arsenal had the better of it in both matches. Indeed, Arsenal outshot Man U by a 19-12 and had a majority of ball possession.
But Arsenal’s most impressive result came in the very next match after Morgan’s rant — a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in Munich. Bayern is hands down the best team in Europe this year. For example, they thrashed mighty Barcelona by 4-0 in Germany and 3-0 in Spain. Bayern’s only other home loss this season in Bundesliga and European Champions League competition came last October against a strong Bayer Leverkusen team (1-2).
Today, Arsenal capped off its fabulous run by defeating Newcastle United away from home. With that win, Arsenal edged out Tottenham for a place in next year’s Champions League. Wenger has guided the Gunners into that prestigious and obscenely lucrative competition in each of his 16 seasons in charge of the club.
So tonight, his misanalysis of the situation at Arsenal notwithstanding, Piers Morgan must be smiling. And not just because he has been able to parlay his British accent, knee-jerk liberalism, modest intellect, and poor judgment into a prime-time CNN gig with clownish soccer commentary on the side.
Is Obama being hurt by the scandals that have engulfed his administration? That sounds like a silly question: of course the scandals have damaged his image, thrown his administration off message, weakened his ability to get anything through Congress. Haven’t they?
If you believe the Gallup Poll, the scandals might be a boon to Obama. Currently he sits at 51%/42%, as measured from May 15 through May 17. This represents an improvement. You can see the trend in this graph:
So the great mass of television watchers and supermarket magazine readers are not yet shocked by the depths of the administration’s depravity. To put it mildly.
Scott Rasmussen shows Obama taking a bit of a hit over the last week or so, with his approval/disapproval among likely voters at 49%/49%. (I assume Rasmussen has tweaked his definition of likely voter, now that the Democrats have shown they can turn out non-taxpayers just as though they had a legitimate interest in the proceedings.) Of interest, as always, is Rasmussen’s Presidential Approval Index, calculated by subtracting the number who strongly disapprove of the president’s performance from those who strongly approve. This chart shows Obama’s history with that index:
These data suggest that Obama may have been hurt somewhat by the scandals, but for the most part, the long-term pattern seems to be dominant. Since very early in his administration, a plurality of Americans have strongly disapproved of Obama’s job performance. For almost his term in office, 40% to 45% of likely voters have not just disapproved of Obama, but disapproved of him strongly. That has almost always exceeded, by a considerable margin, the number who strongly approve. But as the 2012 campaign wore on, the number of strong approvers began to rise. This was entirely foreseeable: it represented Democrats coming home to their party’s candidate in the midst of a hotly contested campaign. Those who were willing to tell pollsters that they were strong approvers never did come close to catching up, but it didn’t matter. The lukewarm approvers, loyal Democrats who realized, I suspect, that Obama is a lousy president, but still didn’t want to vote for a Republican, gave Obama his winning margin.
Once the election was past, Republicans, in their usual spirit of generosity, gave Obama a second honeymoon. You can see the sudden (but temporary) drop in strong disapproval immediately after November’s election. Since the election, as one might expect, everyone has been returning to form. The Republicans and independents who disagree with Obama about nearly everything are expressing ever stronger disapproval of his policies, while the Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents who never thought much of Obama, or who are underemployed as a result of his policies, have rapidly fallen away from the “strong approval” category. It seems obvious that before long, the Approval Index will be more or less where it has been for nearly all of Obama’s term in office. In that context, the current scandals certainly could hurt Obama, but at the moment they are being swamped by larger trends–trends, however, that they are likely to reinforce.
It may be futile to look for the effects of any scandal in the first few days or weeks. Certainly Watergate, to take one obvious example, did not hurt Nixon significantly until long after the fact. It is the drip-drip of headlines and revelations over the course of months that makes a scandal debilitating, not the initial revelations. More important, it is the long-term impact in how voters view an administration that matters. For example, Fast and Furious deserved to be a major scandal. But it didn’t resonate with most voters because it didn’t jibe with their image of Barack Obama, and it wasn’t enough, in itself, to change that image significantly. This is why multiple, reinforcing scandals can be so hurtful: they have a better chance of reorienting perceptions of an administration.
So the Benghazi/IRS/AP scandals haven’t had much effect, yet, on the standing of President Obama or his administration with voters. But their potential to do so is clear. A great deal depends on whether the national news media, normally stalwart supporters of the Democratic Party, keep the scandals in the news over the next few months. Right now, I would rate that prospect at even money, at best. Likely as not, news coverage of the scandals will be dominated by speculation about whether Republicans have “overreached,” an obsession that has never been manifested in connection with any Republican scandal.
Over a period of decades, Edison Electric Company documented the electrification of southern California in approximately 70,000 photographs. Recently Edison donated or loaned these images to the Huntington Museum, which has now put some of them online. They are historically interesting and, in many instances, aesthetically beautiful. They remind us of the romance of southern California in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Click to enlarge:
I like the sign at this gas station: “Serv-ur-self, we serv Ladies.” Not to mention. of course, the price of the gasoline:
Los Angeles in 1915:
There are plenty of diners in evidence, naturally. This one was taken in 1956:
There are lots of interior, too, showing the effects of electrification on the home. Would my wife like this 1935 powder room? Yes:
If you like this kind of thing–and who doesn’t?–there are many more at the link.
As could be expected, the folks in the [IRS] determinations unit on Main Street have had trouble concentrating this week. Number crunchers, whose work is nonpolitical, don’t necessarily enjoy the spotlight, especially when the media and the public assume they’re engaged in partisan villainy. “We’re not political,’’ said one determinations staffer in khakis as he [...]
And here you thought we were broke. I know we’ve annoyed you with all sorts of scandal ridden, Sunday talk show posts today, so there’s a bit of a lighter, government incompetence story to share as we close out the weekend and prepare for QoTD. This one comes to us from long time Green Room [...]
Andy Borowitz of the The New Yorker provides this somewhat fictitious account of our president’s reaction to the current series of scandals:
President Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to reassure the American people that he has “played no role whatsoever” in the U.S. government over the past four years.
“Right now, many of you are angry at the government, and no one is angrier than I am,” he said. “Quite frankly, I am glad that I have had no involvement in such an organization.”
The President’s outrage only increased, he said, when he “recently became aware of a part of that government called the Department of Justice.”
“The more I learn about the activities of these individuals, the more certain I am that I would not want to be associated with them,” he said. “They sound like bad news.”
Mr. Obama closed his address by indicating that beginning next week he would enforce what he called a “zero tolerance policy on governing.”
“If I find that any members of my Administration have had any intimate knowledge of, or involvement in, the workings of the United States government, they will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.