A new ABC News/Washington Post poll has found that while President Obama’s message of healing and changing the tone after the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords has met with strong approval from the American people. 78% of those surveyed approved of Obama’s response compared to 30% for Sarah Palin and her blood libel video.
Although 54% of those surveyed did not believe that the political discourse in the country contributed to the Arizona shootings, only 16% described the tone of America’s political discourse as positive. 82% think that the political discourse that they hear is negative, and 31% described the tone of the discourse as angry. However, respondents were tied at 49% when they were asked if they thought the tone of the political discourse has created a climate that could encourage violence.
When asked whether the rhetoric of five groups was acceptable or crossed the line, three groups stood out as being viewed as part of the problem. Conservative pundits and commentators, and their liberal colleagues were viewed by 51% as crossing the line. The Tea Party movement was viewed by 49% as having crossed the line. To the extent that the language of our political discourse is viewed as a problem, Americans feel that the political extremes are fanning the flames.
The two political parties and their supporters were the only two groups listed that were thought to be using acceptable rhetoric. By a narrow 50%-46% margin respondents said the Republican Party and its supporters have stayed within acceptable rhetorical boundaries. Mainly due to the tone and leadership of President Obama, the Democrats were seen much more favorably as 56% said their rhetoric stayed within acceptable boundaries compared to 39% who believed that they crossed the line.
The gap between President Obama and Sarah Palin has never been quantified more clearly than when respondents were asked to register their approval or disapproval of Obama and Palin’s responses to the Tucson shootings. The overall approval of Obama’s response was 78%, and 51% of this group strongly approved of Obama’s response. On the other hand only 30% approved of Sarah Palin’s blood libel video, and within those who approved only 14% strongly approved. Only 12% disapproved of Obama’s response compared to 46% for Palin. Interestingly, Palin had more than twice as many people disapprove of her response than she had strongly approve (32%-14%).
If Sarah Palin thought that she could undo the damage to her political future caused by the blood libel video with an email to Glenn Beck, and a softball session with Sean Hannity, she was sadly mistaken. Palin’s biggest mistake was not that she used the term blood libel, even though it will be the sound byte from that video that will be played forever. Palin’s biggest blunder was getting the tone and timing completely wrong. When the nation needed healing and comfort, Palin delivered a video tribute to self-absorption and division on the day of the memorial service. The day of the memorial was not a time for Palin to attack both her real and imagined critics. Instead of stealing the day’s headlines from Obama like she intended, Sarah Palin proved that she was tone deaf to the needs of the American people. In contrast, Obama delivered remarks that were pitch perfect.
Sarah Palin let her inner Richard Nixon out to play when she released the blood libel video, but Americans have long preferred messages of optimism and unity from their presidents over negativity and division. The problem for Palin runs even deeper. Before the video, it was believed that she was capable of emotionally connecting with voters, but her video was devoid of empathy and compassion. Americans want a president to be compassionate and empathetic. During the darkest of days, a president is often required to be the Therapist In Chief.
By choosing to put her own personal defense ahead of the needs of the country, Palin told the rest of America what Alaska found out long ago. She is a leader who won’t be there for you. When America was looking for leadership and consolation, Sarah Palin turned her back on her country, so it should be a surprise that even more Americans are turning their backs on her.
It is ironic that what could very well end Sarah Palin’s political career may not be any of the rumors and bloggers that Palin is always complaining about. Sarah Palin may have ended her own political career by being too terrified to escape her Facebook/Twitter bubble. Disconnection is a natural byproduct of the type of unilateral communication that Palin has embraced, and by the looks of things Sarah Palin has isolated and disconnected herself from the so called “Real Americans” that she once claimed to champion.
Answers to poll questions about favorability are by nature subjective and emotional, and what should be taken away from the positive response to Obama and the negative response to Palin is that Obama has maintained his ability to connect with the American people, while Sarah Palin is wink and sizzle with no emotional substance. She is the political world’s version of empty ethical calories. She is this decade’s John Edwards in lipstick.