White House writer, Walsh, offers insight on Obama Administration

Meeting a current president of the United States is an experience most people only get once in a lifetime.

For Ken Walsh, meeting with the president is a weekly occurrence that's part of his job.

For the past 24 years, Walsh has been the main White House beat writer for U.S. News & World Report. During that time, Walsh has covered five different presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama.

Last Thursday, Oct. 21, the distinguished White House reporter was at the University of South Dakota to share his insight on the current Obama Administration and the four presidents before him during his presentation "The Barack Obama Presidency: New Directions, New Challenges and a Historical Perspective."

Obama's approval rating is at the lowest it has ever been during his presidency as it sits at 37 percent according to the latest Harris Poll.

The plummeting approval ratings come almost two years after Obama handily defeated John McCain for the presidency.

"Look at the states he won. It was remarkable, not only the states, but also the demographics he won," Walsh said. "African Americans voted in record numbers, women voted for him and he won a couple states there were usually red states."

"He even won the two swing states that we seem to talk about every election in Florida and Ohio," added Walsh, who has covered every national election since 1984. "Obama managed that and there was a lot of high hope."

Obama's approval ratings aren't caused by a lack of effort on his part, but more because of the policies he has been passing, Walsh said.

"Obama has gotten a lot of things done, and I think he is still powerful," he said. "Obama has tried to create federal projects to improve the economy, and it hasn't really worked yet. He was told once healthcare passed, the country would come around and that isn't happening."

Because of how the country has reacted to his policies, at the moment, Obama wouldn't win some of the same critical states he won in the last election, Walsh said, putting his ability to be reelected in doubt.

In order to get back on track, Walsh said Obama should look at a president who was in office when he first started covering the White House – Reagan.

"Reagan has a lot of lessons to teach other presidents, and he taught us clear direction and how to appeal to middle America," he said. "Obama was big in middle America during the election, but he doesn't have their support now and he is trying to earn it back with what is call "backyard" meetings. I think Obama has a ways to go where he has clear direction."

Another reason Walsh said Obama's approval rating have fallen is because Americans haven't seen the same personality Obama showed during his campaign.

"Obama was very charismatic, and what's happening is reality because just having charisma doesn't always work," he said. "People feel like they don't know him now. He always tries to find the intellectual answer, and people want more emotion."

Walsh compared Obama to a law professor because he likes to explain what is going on and he likes to have every last bit of information about the topic.

One of the biggest problems Obama could face in the near future is a change of leadership in Congress if the Republicans win 39 seats in the House of Representatives and 10 seats in the Senate at the mid-term election this upcoming week.

"The problem will be how he deals with the loss of control, because there is no doubt the Republicans will make some gains," Walsh said. "He realizes he will have to adjust as well."

But Walsh noted that even if the Republicans gain control of Congress, they have enough turmoil in their own party because of the emergence of the Tea Party.

"With the Tea Party, we are heading for a point of two years with no cooperation and things not getting done," he said. "The Republicans are trying to make it Republicans versus Democrats, but people are as unhappy with the Republicans and they want new blood."

Walsh said the Tea Party reminds him of when Ross Perot ran for president the first time in 1992.

"We had an insurgence with Perot. He ran on the fact that the deficit is out of control, and he got 19 percent," he said. "That's absolutely back today."

Walsh added that the deficit has been soaring not just under Obama, but it also was rising with George W. Bush as the president.

Walsh even touched on Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, who he said has been surprisingly conventional so far.

"She is there to raise her two daughters and to support her husband," he said. "Her focal points as first lady have been childhood obesity and nutrition, two very uncontroversial topics."

Walsh added that Michelle Obama probably won't touch on controversial topics while she is in the White House.

"She feels like she was burned when she got a bit controversial during the election, and I don't think we will see her do that again," he said. "People don't want their first ladies to be controversial."

Walsh did reflect back on the past presidents he has written about, and he said George Bush Sr. was his favorite.

"I like George Bush Sr. the most because he was very considerate and nice," he said. "But he couldn't convey his best qualities to the country which led to him being a one-term president."

Walsh said Reagan was the most historical to cover and he showed that clear policies can get people past the problems.

Walsh said Bill Clinton was the most interesting person he has covered in the White House.

"Clinton was brilliant, and a lot of the time we learned about him because he let us see him," he said.

Walsh called George W. Bush a "gut" politician.

"When he made a decision, he didn't go back on it," he said. "He was also more of a people person, maybe more than Obama."

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>