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Senior Correspondent

A Year of Turbulence

In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll (Dec. 12-15), President Obama is beginning his last two years in office with "record numbers of  Americans saying they disapprove of his job performance."

Yet ratings of both parties in Congress continue to fare worse than the president’s. But Obama no longer leads in who could better deal with the economy. "Republicans are at 45 percent to Obama's 41 percent … Last year Obama was at 54 percent and Congressional Republicans at 36 percent … A 26-point Obama advantage a year ago on who would better protect the middle class has fallen to just six points in the latest survey."

The president’s approval rating is at 43 percent while disapproval is at 55 percent. The percentages were virtually the same last year, but in reverse: 54 percent approved and 42 percent disapproved.

It’s clear that the president over-promised, and is paying a price. The rhetoric doesn’t work the way it once did. On many issues — health care, mass surveillance, immigration, Wall Street, the climate, Guantanamo — he has seemed to waffle. Sometimes I wish he'd had experience running something like a state or a city or a business — even the sheriff's office — before he went to the White House. Lack of executive experience may have proven costly in getting his own successes across like appointment of judges and heads of agencies.

For now, the next election, we hear, is favoring Republicans to retain the House and maybe win the Senate and increase its clout in the states. Obama has to fight hard in the last two years of his presidency to rescue a legacy of a liberal America — including a health program if we are to begin to catch up with the rest of the civilized world. At 52, Barack  Obama is still a young man — cause to hope his best two years in the White House lie ahead of him.

"Loyalists and locations," as the New York Times put it, are vying for a role in planning Obama’s presidential library and foundation. As for location, the University of Chicago is in an advantageous position. It's where the president once taught, and Mrs. Obama sat on the board. But as Robert Frost might have said, he still has "promises to keep, and miles to go" before building a presidential library.

This article originally appeared in the San Leandro Times.

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