President Obama is suffering from a growing credibility gap.
His critics say the ongoing furor regarding his health care law and revelations about government surveillance underscore how Obama is breaking some of his most important pledges going back to the 2008 campaign. Among them were his promises to make government work better and to restore faith in Washington.
One big setback has been the failure of a new enrollment website for Obama's health care law. Ever since it was launched on Oct. 1, it has been a mess, raising questions about the competence of the supposed technological and policy wizards in the government. Making matters worse, Obamacare is the president's signature initiative. If he can't get this one right, what hope is there that his other major initiatives will turn out well, such as overhauling the immigration system or combatting climate change?
White House officials have now acknowledged that not everyone will be able to keep their current health care plans under Obamacare as the president promised. This prompted Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to tell reporters, "For months, the American people have been learning about the impact Obamacare will have on individuals and families in the form of higher premiums, canceled insurance plans and lost jobs – more broken promises from the administration.
"Obamacare costs too much and it's not working the way they promised. Obamacare's problems run much deeper than the failed website, and it's time for the president to keep his word."
In addition, the latest disclosures about U.S. government spying on American allies abroad raise more questions about the trustworthiness of the Obama administration. "The scandal over allegations about NSA surveillance overseas, including monitoring the cell phone conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and millions of phone calls in France, is another huge blow to President Barack Obama," Princeton historian Julian Zelizer writes in an essay for CNN.
"....The recent National Security Agency revelation is one more step in a series of revelations about practices that have undercut a central promise that candidate Obama made in 2008 – to repair America's standing in the world."
All this could further undermine the public's faith in government. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that only 19 percent of Americans trust government to do the right thing almost always or most of the time. It's likely that this trust quotient will drop even lower.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.