Michael Barone, Real Clear Politics:
In 1960 Richard Nixon, after eight years as vice president and six in Congress, campaigned on the slogan “Experience counts.” No one is running on that theme this year.
Nixon could, because over the preceding quarter-century the majority of Americans mostly approved of the performance of incumbent presidents. Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower still look pretty good more than 50 years later.
Barack Obama doesn’t. His deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes recently said that the president’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran was as important an achievement of his second term as Obamacare was of the first. Historians may well agree.
These two policy achievements have many things in common.
Both were unpopular when proposed and still are now. In March 2010 Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that people would know, and presumably like, what was in the bill after it was passed. But most Americans didn’t like it then and most don’t today, five and a half years later. As for the Iran deal, Pew Research reports it has only 21 percent approval today, much lower than Obamacare in 2010.
Both Obamacare and the Iran deal were bulldozed through Congress through legislative legerdemain. Democrats passed Obamacare by using the temporary 60-vote Senate supermajority gained through a Minnesota recount and the wrongful prosecution of Sen. Ted Stevens. After they lost the 60th vote, they resorted to a dubious legislative procedure.
This year Obama labeled the Iran treaty an executive agreement, and Congress concocted a process requiring only a one-third-plus-one rather than a two-thirds vote for approval. Only 38 percent of members of Congress supported it. Many, such as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, did so only after saying that they never would have accepted it in negotiations.