protestors using bull horns to shout at each other

Splitting Apart: American Polarization, Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series on polarization in America. This post focuses on Americans' views on, and roles in, polarization. Part two addresses the systemic causes of polarization that result from our ... Read Now >

News

3/2: Does Senator Thune’s Announcement Really Shake up the GOP Field?

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Last week, South Dakota’s junior senator, John Thune, announced he would not seek the GOP nod for president in 2012.  For someone who is barely an asterisk in the extremely early pre-election polls, this “news” created more than just a ripple.  No one was really expecting Thune to take this wire to wire.  No one was referencing failed South Dakotan 1972 Democratic candidate George McGovern with an “as South Dakota goes, so goes the nation.”  And, certainly, no one was racing up to Mt. Rushmore to take measurements for further excavation.

miringoff-caricature-430A couple of points on the reasons for the “big splash:”  First, the GOP field is so poorly formed at this point that it is even difficult to draw the top tier/second tier demarcations that are typical a year before the primary/caucus season.  Now, Thune’s withdrawal is seen as a boost to the chances of a fellow low recognition 2012 wannabee … Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  They appeal to a similar conservative constituency within GOP circles.  But, how thinly can you dissect a blip on the radar screen anyway?

Second, political pundits gravitated to a potentially far bigger historical happening when Thune backed off.  For the first time since 1904, according to Politico, a sitting member of Congress will not be among the crop of candidates seeking the presidency.  And, for the first time in modern political history, according to The Washington Post, the presidential campaign will commence without a sitting U.S. senator in the field. (Where’s Senator DeMint when you really need him?)

Despite enjoying a more than modest bank account, Thune has to be worried (even if he is thinking about 2016) that Capitol Hill tenants often run for president but almost as often fail to win.  Before 2008, when Obama and McCain were both sitting senators (I guess one of them had to win), the previous victorious sitting senator was John F. Kennedy.  Before him, you need to rewind to Warren G. Harding.

I’m sure campaign 2012 will have more interesting moments than what Senator Thune shared with the political community.  But, with Thune’s decision the winnowing has begun even before the field has formed.

2/4: Any Way You Crunch the Numbers…

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Andrew Cuomo is off to a good start as New York’s Governor.  According to the latest Marist Poll, he has a 71% favorability rating and his job performance stands at 48%.  This translates into most New York voters telling us they like Cuomo and nearly half think, after just one month in office, that he’s doing an excellent or good job.

miringoff-caricature-430

Andrew Cuomo’s numbers compare well to Marist’s first poll on former Governors Pataki, Spitzer, and Paterson.   Only former Governor Mario Cuomo gives the current Governor Cuomo a run for his money.

Like father, like son.  Despite each one’s popularity, there is a big difference in approach between Cuomo I and Cuomo II.  Mario Cuomo used to wax eloquent about the poetry of running and the prose of governing.  By bridging the gap between his campaign and his administration, Andrew Cuomo made the campaign an investment in political capital that will pay dividends as governor.  For Andrew Cuomo, it’s all prose…. Well, with maybe just a touch of budget passion.

And, so far, it’s paying off.  Although a majority of New York voters still think the state is headed in the wrong direction, the number who thinks it’s on track in the latest Marist Poll has grown from 18% in October to 42%.  Cuomo scores high on leadership, representing all regions of the state, and caring about New Yorkers.  Perhaps, most significantly, a majority thinks he’s fulfilling campaign promises.

The real test for Governor Cuomo will be in the bruising budget battle to come.  58% express confidence in Cuomo’s ability to address the budget.  68% are not confident the state legislature can do the same.

Included in Cuomo’s current approval rating is 19% who are “unsure” about his job performance.   Does he win these “it’s too early to tell’ voters over in the next few months by resolving the fiscal mess?  His political future and, more importantly, New York’s future will depend upon the answer.  To be continued.

2/4: OK, Class, When’s an Approval Rating an Approval Rating?

By Barbara Carvalho

The quick answer is: when you ask about the approval rating of an elected official.  Unfortunately, that clarity was missing in a slew of recent polls on New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo and the start of his term in office.

carvalho-caricature-430

First, Siena College released the findings of a statewide poll which measured Cuomo’s approval rating at 44% but also reported his favorability rating at 70%.  Unfortunately, media coverage of their poll results often twisted the two scores.  Approval rating deals with job performance.  Favorability deals with likeability.  They are not synonymous.

Think back to President Reagan who was well-liked (favorability rating) but typically received lower marks for his job performance (approval rating).  For President Clinton, the opposite was the case.  Higher approval ratings on the job he was doing as president but lower favorability scores tapping into his personal conduct.  So far, President Obama’s favorability numbers have consistently been higher than his approval rating.

Let’s return to the topic at hand and New York’s governor.   Have you done your reading assignment?  Next up was the Quinnipiac University poll which opted out of an approval rating altogether (it was too soon, they claimed) and only asked about Cuomo’s favorability.  But even on Cuomo’s favorability, Quinnipiac found a very different result than Siena … 47% compared to 70%.

Why?  Do I always have to see the same hands?  Let’s turn the page to Lesson #2 in survey research.  Question wording matters.  You get what you ask for.  Quinnipiac asked: “Is your opinion of Governor Andrew Cuomo favorable, unfavorable, or haven’t you heard enough about him?”  Siena asked “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion about Andrew Cuomo?”   A subtle distinction perhaps, but one that makes for a difference in the poll numbers.   36% opted for the Quinnipiac choice “or haven’t you heard enough about him?”   This substantially “reduced” the number of respondents only going for the positive or negative options.  Quinnipiac also included in their calculations the 6% who refused to answer the question.  I’ll offer that as an extra credit assignment if you want to comment on whether that makes good survey sense (or not).

Then finally, there was the tie-breaker poll from Marist.  We found Cuomo’s approval rating at 48% and his favorability at 71%, similar to what Siena found.  The question wording was similar, too.

These polls matter because they all address the important question of whether Governor Cuomo is off to a good start.  He is.  Voters like him (71%).  A greater proportion of New Yorkers also give him a thumbs-up on his first weeks as governor than did for his most recent predecessors.  The answer isn’t lost on the political community, especially the state legislature.

Hope this helps to clear up the confusion.  If there are no other questions, class dismissed.

1/28: The Son Also Rises…

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Lately the signs of the galaxy have undergone change.  Not far from MariosCosmos, once a very bright star on the horizon, the glistening SonofCosmos has come into view.  Somewhat similar in appearance, sonar cannot detect any noticeable difference in sound.  To find SonofCosmos, locate the lights above Albany and set your gaze slightly to the right.

miringoff-caricature-430

SonofCosmos’ return to the Empirous constellation followed his having been active not too long ago in the orbit of Clintonia.  The rediscovery of SonofCosmos in Empirous was somewhat serendipitous given SonofCosmos’ placement in the shadows of Planet 9.  But, Planet 9 wilted like a Mayflower, passing the controls of Albany to his co-pilot.  Soon thereafter, the skies parted and SonofCosmos, like MariosCosmos before him, became the brightest light in the constellation.

Will his star shine throughout the 62 counties of Empirous?  Will he again take flight when the stars realign in 2016? Will his spacecraft, leave the Albany tarmac and head to the distant granite planet? Keep your telescopes fixed towards the northern poll to detect any future changes in the astrological signs.

1/25: Welcome to the World of Sports Signings!

If ever there was a blank slate, I was one.

azzoli-caricature-445It was June of 2009, and I found myself amid a crowd of basketball fans at my local shopping mall.  No, there wasn’t a sale at Modell’s, Champs, Foot Locker, or any other sporting goods store.  We were gathered for an autograph signing by former New York Knicks players John Starks and Anthony Mason.

It was my first sports signing in more than 20 years.  And, trust me.  My name was never synonymous with this type of event.  Don’t get me wrong, I love sports!  As a kid, I was thrilled to meet New York Mets Howard Johnson, Terry Leach, and Mackey Sasser at baseball card shows at my elementary school.  As an adult, though, attending these events never really appealed to me.  But, all that changed.

Shortly after meeting my, now, fiancé, I discovered the one addictive part of his personality — his love of collecting sports memorabilia.  Enamored by the stories of those he had met and the pieces he had in his collection, I became intrigued and was a willing participant in the next signing.  To put it simply, I thought it was cool!  I mean, I could hold my own.  I have those childhood baseball card shows under my belt.  I thought I knew what was in store.  Boy, was I wrong.

Soon, I realized this wasn’t just a hobby, it was a whole world (not to mention an industry) with its own set of rules populated by some of the most loyal fans around.  Here’s a taste of what I learned:
•    Collect unique items (e.g. a ball signed by the pitcher and catcher of a perfect game)
•    Without an inscription, it’s really not worth it
•    Inscriptions are extra
•    Prices vary based upon the athlete
•    Different fees exist for different items (balls, flats, jerseys, etc.)
•    16×20 photos must be purchased sparingly (They take up too much wall space and should be reserved for only the most exciting of action shots.)
•    When framing memorabilia, do so with UV protected glass
•    The thrill of meeting some of the greats never dies

Mays, Berra, Palmer, Ripken, Henderson, Seaver, Gooden… Needless to say, I am hooked.  Would I call myself one of the 18% of Americanswho told the Marist Poll they would prefer an athlete’s autograph over, say, the president’s?  Probably not.  But, I will say the adrenaline rush of meeting an athlete whom you’ve watched, and in many cases, admired over the years, is incredible!

1/20: Baby Boomers’ Reality: An Interview

By John Sparks

The largest explosion in population for the United States occurred in the years just following the end of World War II.  Known as the Baby Boomer Generation, this group has been the largest demographic of the American population and has been the driving force of the economy ever since.  In the second decade of the new millennium, Baby Boomers are graying and facing the reality of retirement.  Will retirement be as rosy as they might anticipate?

Perri Peltz

Perri Peltz

The Marist Poll’s John Sparks visits with Marist Poll Contributor Perri Peltz, a distinguished television news journalist and public health advocate.

John Sparks
Perri, the Baby Boomers are graying and approaching their golden years, so the Marist Poll reached out and asked if they thought those golden years were going to be as golden as they had hoped for.  What do you think? What will retirement be like for Baby Boomers?

Perri Peltz
You know, it’s such an interesting question. Seventy-eight million people, Boomers, will start turning 65 come 2011.  So, this is a huge change in our demographics as a country, and it’s been called everything, including the silver tsunami, that the graying of our population is really enormous, and it’s going to place tremendous demands on this country.  How are these people going to be cared for?  Who are going to provide for them?  What about the finances? That being said, what I find fascinating about it is the Boomers who are entering these retirement years are incredibly optimistic, incredibly upbeat about what their prospects are, in spite of the fact that they’re — we’re in a recession, coming out of a recession, however you want to look at it, and obviously that places tremendous demands on this group, this population.

John Sparks
Well, what do boomers have to look forward to in the area of health care?

Perri Peltz
Health reform is obviously a very good thing for Boomers.  The concern that has been stated kind of over and over again is that as you have this enormous number of people entering these years, entering their senior years, obviously health demands go up, and health care demands go up. The question that remains is who’s going to take care of these people?  How are their medical needs going to be met?  Do we have enough medical personnel to care for Boomers who are reaching this age where their health demands are going to be increasing?  So, on the one hand, we have all of these amazing advances in medical technology and medical care, yet do we have the infrastructure?  Do we have the personnel to be able to care for them?  Are there going to be enough doctors?  That is a real question that remains to be seen and whether — how is that gap going to be filled?  Are we going to have different kinds of providers that are going to be filling those gaps?  That’s a question that I think remains to be seen, but it’s without a doubt a real concern within the medical community.

John Sparks
You mentioned the optimism. Boomers have always had what I call “We’ve got the world by the tail” syndrome. And I say “we” because I am a Baby Boomer born in 1947. We took the challenge of sending a man to moon and back and made it a reality, but there are other things that are just beyond our grasp — a cure for cancer and then, of course, AIDS, Alzheimer’s. You have an expertise and an interest in public health and medicine, do you think that Boomers, the folks of my generation, have a chance of seeing any of those challenges becoming a reality in our lifetimes?

Perri Peltz
You know, I think they do.  I don’t think there’s any question about it.  I think that the advances that are taking place are really astounding. You look at the new medications that are happening in cancer treatment which are phenomenal. I mean chemotherapy, while it’s still an incredibly important part of cancer treatment, is becoming less of a focus as you start to look at these — this new round of treatments.  So, I think that there are all of these advances that are taking place, and I think Boomers are going to be able to enjoy some of those advances in medical care.  Are we going to find a cure for cancer during this period?  You know, hard to say.  Are we going to find a cure for Alzheimer’s?  Maybe not.  But, it seems as though we are making tremendous strides, and I think that Boomers are going to enjoy some of those benefits of really the things that they’ve been working on during all — during this time.

John Sparks
They’ve always had this terrific idealism besides in the areas of health, this idealism that perhaps we might even — we would seek and we would find an end to poverty. I know that you work with the Robin Hood Foundation. That’s an organization dedicated to fighting poverty.  What do you think about an end to poverty?  Will we be able to accomplish a goal as lofty as that?

Perri Peltz
Oh, I think that’s a really, really, really difficult one, and I think that you know with the economic period that we’re in certainly has made it even more difficult. I think that the good news about this population, about the Boomers entering retirement, they’re not really retiring. They are staying so engaged, and the numbers seem to bear that out, that this a group of people who have really little interest in stopping their activities and that they want to remain engaged, that they want to continue with the idealism for which they’ve been known for such a long period of time, that they want to continue with that and engage in fighting poverty and in fighting so many of these things.  So, I think the good news is their enthusiasm, their idealism is certainly not going to end just because they turn 65.  So, hopefully, that will continue, and that will help to end some of these bigger issues that we are dealing with. One of the things that I love is how many of the Boomers are volunteering and trying to make change.  So, perhaps, they’re leaving the traditional workforce, but they certainly are staying engaged, volunteering in numbers that have been unprecedented, and that is only good.  Right?  So, whether we can fight poverty or win that battle, that’s an enormous question, but as long as this incredible force of people, who are idealistic, stay engaged, chances are good that real things yet can be accomplished.

John Sparks
Another thing that Marist asked Boomers had to do with things that they might expect to see in their lifetimes that go beyond health issues — living on other planets, microchips to make us smarter, human robots. This is certainly not the same world I was born into, but what do you see on the horizon in the form of technology, and will it be for the better or worse in the years to come?

Perri Peltz
You know it’s a great question, and I look at the age that we are living in right now, put aside living on another planet, the way that we are connected, the Internet, all of these unbelievable things that I find as though we’re living in this incredible era. So, you think about what is the next step, and it’s so hard to understand that as you’re just trying to figure out how to stay current with this technology that we have.  So hard to say where it’s all going, but I think it’s such an incredible period of technology development and growth, you know, who knows what’s coming next?

John Sparks
Perri, many of our Marist listeners remember you from your days at WNBC.  Can you catch us up on what you’re doing these days?

Perri Peltz
I remember … you know, I was with WNBC for a long time and punctuated — I went to CNN for a couple of years, I was at ABC for a couple of years, loved the work that I did. I had an incredible opportunity and largely focused on issues that were somehow related to public health, whether it was addiction issues or disease problems or … the AIDS epidemic is really how I got started in journalism.  So, it was an amazing, amazing opportunity. About three or four years ago, I decided I wanted to return to school.  I had always planned after I graduated from college to go to medical school and public health school and really focus on issues relating to public health. I never went to medical school. I kind of got sidetracked and wound up going to WNBC and starting out as a medical reporter focusing on lots of these kinds of issues.  So, after 20 years in the business, I decided I wanted to go back to medical school. I did.  I wound up staying for one year in medical school and then realizing that I really wanted to focus more on public health issues, that at this point in my life it was unlikely that I was going to start practicing medicine, and really what I was — wanted to remain focused on were issues concerning public health and, in specific, access to care for poor people.  So, I’m now at Columbia.  I’m in their doctoral program for public health and pursuing these issues about access to care, and the issues of aging certainly tie into that.  I mean, what happens not only is you have this incredible population of people who are reaching retirement age, but what about the numbers of poor people?  And that has traditionally been a problem in the United States. How do they get health care?  And now you have to magnify that, right.  As you look at this population of people, what happens to the people who don’t have health insurance, who are poor?  How do they access care, and how do they access care now that they are coming in numbers that we have never seen before?  So that’s really what I’m focusing on.  I still try to stay current in journalism.  I have a show that I do once a week for the SIRIUS XM network, which I love, and I do that once a week, and we focus on a health care issue each week, so that’s been really you know terrific and that’s how I kind of stay engaged with journalism.  But, other than that, I’ve largely been a student.  So, that’s what I’m doing.

Related Stories:

Poll: Boomers Expect Less Comfortable Retirement

Blog: Boom or Bust?

1/20: Boom or Bust?

By John Sparks

Each year when Beloit College releases its Mindset List about the traits of the entering freshman class, I am reminded of something I find myself saying more and more often … this is not the world I was born into.

sparks-caricature-440I am a classic Boomer born in 1947.  World War II was history.  My world in Texas reflected what was going on in other parts of the country … growth, housing starts, and the height of the military-industrial complex created out of necessity to defeat Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan.  The United States was a manufacturing giant, and my generation has always been the trend setters, the driving force behind the economy, and the beneficiaries of the Greatest Generation — our parents — whose values and determination strived to make the world a better place for us.  Born in the Great Depression, they never wanted us to do without.  The American Dream was the goal — everyone living in a house in the suburbs with a two car garage and a college education.

Polio was the dreaded disease.  Health insurance was not an entitlement.  Doctors made house calls, and we paid them in cash.  When I was six years old, my mother placed me in an experimental program to help find a vaccine for polio.  A couple of years later, we had the Salk vaccine followed by the Sabin vaccine.

Davy Crockett was the King of the Wild Frontier, and Walt Disney capitalized on him in one of the first mass marketing campaigns utilizing the new magic box in our living room — the television.  Television would play a formidable role in our lives, and for me, personally.  I would spend 40 years of my adult life working in television news.

As a child, I recall the times as optimistic and fun.  The shadow of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation were ever-present, but my day to day concerns were of cowboys, baseball, Boy Scouts and later on cars and girls.  We all felt we would live forever as invulnerable as another television and comic book hero, Superman.  Somehow our parents protected us from fears of doom, drought, and an economic recession that hit us in the 1950’s.  I never spent a waking hour thinking about retirement.

I barely remember Harry Truman.  The first real president I do remember was a grandfather-like figure who came on the television on rare occasions — Dwight Eisenhower.  The world would stop when that happened, and everyone would watch and listen closely.

The optimism of my pre-teen years was followed with the youthful vigor of our next president, John F. Kennedy.  He inspired us into believing we could send a man to the moon, and he talked about the torch being passed on to a new generation — us.

I saw President Kennedy in person on the morning he was assassinated.  I was at the breakfast at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth where he spoke just hours before he was gunned down in Dallas.  I could have reached out and touched him in the motorcade as it left the Hotel.

Many have written that the shots that rang out in Dealey Plaza marked the transition from an age of innocence.

Regardless of when, somewhere along the way, things went awry.  Some of it was our own undoing.  Some of it for all good intentions were the mistakes of our parents.

The verve turned to violence and Vietnam.  We began to question the status quo.   We had all the answers.  Our next president from an older generation vowed to end poverty with his Great Society.  He failed.

We had Earth Day and became aware of our environment.   We became the Woodstock Generation, and we thrived on drugs, sex, and rock and roll.

Believe it or not, though, forty years have passed, and in the course of time in the year 2010, those of us still kicking have survived many more periods of ups and downs.  Greed and corruption have always been present.  Every age has its own perils and promise.  Today, it’s terrorists, technology, and Tweets.  Tomorrow?  Who knows?

Of concern lately has been the results of a survey indicating that for the first time Americans feel like the country’s better days are behind us and not ahead.  Financial forecasts tell us to be prepared to work way past the age we thought we would retire.  Alzheimer’s is a growing concern of many of us as medical strides have lengthened our lifespan.

We Boomers are coming to grips with our own mortality.  As the world turns, our youth has given way to gray hair and wrinkles, but along with the fears and trepidation, this Boomer remains an optimist.

The earth still spins on its axis.  Life is still worth living.  The glass is far more than half full, and I continue to be blessed with new friends and new experiences.  I am thankful for being born when I was and for experiencing life as part of the Baby Boomer Generation.  I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

I also look forward to 2011 and to continue sharing interviews and insights with our Marist followers.  Happy New Year!

Related Stories:

Poll: Boomers Expect Less Comfortable Retirement

Baby Boomers’ Reality: An Interview

1/19: At Long Last? Well, Sort of …

By Barbara Carvalho

While official calculations 18 months ago cited the definitional end to the recession, an economic gloom has hung over the nation … until now.  According to the latest Marist Poll, a light has broken through the overcast economic forecast.  Mind you, the numbers aren’t exactly rosy, but they do represent a departure from what we’ve been seeing.

carvalho-caricature-430Although the overwhelming majority of Americans continue to think we are still mired in the recession, there has been a decline in the number from 79% in December to 71% currently.  This is nothing to write home about, but in the world of the economist, directional change counts.

More dramatic is the view that we’ve turned the economic corner.  54% of Americans nationally tell us the worst is behind us, and only 39% think the worst is yet to come.  Compare this current Marist finding with what we observed only last month.  This represents a flip from the pre-holiday figures when 39% thought the worst was behind us, and 53% believed the worst was yet to come.

The direction of the economy is a good barometer of how incumbents are faring.  So, is it any surprise that President Obama’s approval rating is on the rebound from his November shellacking?  And, under the heading of having your cake and eating it too, voters still blame President Obama’s predecessor for the country’s economic woes.

Does this now signal a new political climate? Probably not.  The jobs picture remains problematic despite the overall drop in unemployment from 9.8% to 9.4% in the latest government figures.  Drilling down, we see that the increase in jobs isn’t keeping pace with population growth, and the decline in unemployment is largely the result of Americans exiting the work force.   Such as it is, this remains, like digging out from the two previous recessions, largely a jobless recovery.  And, economic forecasts suggest this trek back to normal will take even longer to get on firmer footing.

1/19: What’s a Giant Fan to Do?

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

My hopes for a return of my Giants to the Super Bowl this year were dashed in a Joe Pisarcik-like collapse delivered at the hands and feet of Eagle Quarterback Michael Vick and followed the week later by the precision passing of Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  Now, the New Yorker in me, along with most of my Big Apple friends, says I should be pulling for the J-E-T-S to bluster their way to the Lombardi Trophy.  More on Gang Green shortly.  So, what are my rooting choices as the remaining four teams wind their way to Dallas and the February 6th showdown?

miringoff-caricature-430Let’s start with my oldest dislike.  Pittsburgh.  Now, I know it’s another sport but the memory of Bill Mazeroski’s walk off homer in the 1960 World Series is still raw.  I know I’m supposed to get over it by now, but I was in my formative years.  And, as they say, childhood memories last a lifetime.  Besides, it’s the fiftieth anniversary of his Ballentine blast.  Tapes of the game, recently discovered in Bing Crosby’s wine cellar, were unfortunately broadcast quality.  Talk about pouring salt onto old wounds.   So, the Steelers are not an option.

Next up chronologically is the Green Bay Packers.   In the NFL Championship games of 1961 and 1962, the Lombardi led Packers won back to back titles over my Giants led by Sam Huff and his defensive stalwarts.  The fact that the Packers bounced the Giants from the playoffs this year has nothing to do with my dislike of the occupants of Lambeau Field.  I wouldn’t have been rooting for them anyway.

And, then there are Da Bears.  Who can forget my Giants being manhandled by the monsters of the midway on that bone-chilling day at Wrigley Field in the 1963 NFL Championship Game?  Certainly, I can’t.   George Halas’ Bears won 14-10 over my Giants and hobbled Quarterback Y.A. Tittle.  Let’s not even go down the slippery slope of “The Fridge” and the 1985 season ending playoffs for the G-men.  Bears 21-0.  Remember Sean Landeta’s whiff punt that was returned 5 yards for a touchdown?  It makes DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard game-ending punt return to cap the Eagle’s comeback this year seem like child play.

So, that brings me back to the Rex Ryan coached Jets.  Now, I have nothing against Joe Namath besides my dislike of the AFL and expansion teams…. I don’t have much need for the Nets, Islanders, or Mets either.  But, more to the point, there’s something about the Ryan name that sticks in my throat like Chicago bratwurst or Philadelphia cheese steak.  Maybe it’s that his father Buddy Ryan was Defensive Coordinator of the ’85 Bears and later coached the Philadelphia Eagles.  He had earlier been the Jets linebacker coach on their ’69 Super Bowl winning team. (The only one of the remaining four teams he wasn’t a part of was the Packers whom he probably liked anyway.)   Should the sins of the father be visited on the son?  I’ve still got some soul searching to do on that one.  But, in the short run, (and, probably a longer run, too) it disqualifies them for me.

So, I’m down to three thoughts.  Should I be part of the 26% who tell us in the latest Marist Poll they watch the Super Bowl more for the commercials than the game?  I think not.  I like football too much to buy into that one.  Second, maybe I can solve my Super Bowl dilemma by wishing that the best team wins.  That’s probably the only charitable thing I’ve written so far.  But, it doesn’t allow me to scream at the TV full throttle while the game is on like I do each Sunday for the Giants.  Finally, deep down inside I’m thinking maybe things aren’t really too bad. It’s only slightly more than a month until pitchers and catchers.  Go Yanks!  But, I bet you could already tell I’m one of those Yankee fans who the rest of the sports world loves to hate.

1/14: President Obama at the Halfway Point

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

President Obama is not only midway through his first term in office, but he is at the crossroads in his presidency.  Several recent national surveys, including the most recent McClatchy-Marist Poll, have shown an improvement in his approval rating.  Right now his job performance rating borders 50%, certainly an uptick from his post-shellacking numbers.  He is on firmer footing because his Democratic base is more secure and independent voters are now divided.  Independents only recently were giving the president a thumbs-down.

miringoff-caricature-430Clearly, President Obama is benefitting from the end-of-year legislative successes.  The political dialogue is likely to be elevated in the coming weeks, something the president promised during his 2008 campaign.  He has been unable to deliver this during his first two years in office, but perhaps he has been heard by a mournful nation in his healing address to the families of the victims on Wednesday night.

So, he begins the second half of this term with a sense of renewal.   The good news for the president is that 61% of voters nationwide are optimistic about his job performance in the next two years.  Hope is back on the minds of the nation.  The bad news for the president is that 61% of voters nationwide are optimistic about his job performance in the next two years.  Expectations are again very high for President Obama to deliver on his campaign promises about jobs, the fiscal mess, and international situation.  Moreover, he needs to sustain the civility in our national dialogue that was born out of the tragedy last Saturday in Tucson.

There is a sense in the nation that we have changed direction.  Americans are less negative about the country’s compass.  This is a trend that can only serve to help an incumbent as he is poised to seek re-election.

Will the president’s political recovery last?  The economy will dictate the answer. And, certainly the jobs picture remains problematic for the president.  The next few months will be critical in defining how this president and his presidency are viewed.