The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington

Jon Meacham

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Newsweek editor says Americans anxious about the role of government

Author and Newsweek editor Jon Meacham spoke about "War, Healthcare and the Economy: Obama's First Year" Monday, Nov. 18, at Texas Hall. His appearance was part of the Maverick Speakers Series.

Meacham joined Newsweek as a writer in 1995 and became managing editor just three years later, at age 29. His books are "Franklin and Winston," "American Gospel" and "American Lion," a biography of Andrew Jackson that was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. He is a frequent guest on "The Daily Show: and "The Colbert Report."

Here's what he said:

The political ideology of America is changing.
The majority of the country is of the center-right ideology and is becoming increasingly conservative. But the country has a Democratic president whose agenda does not include gay marriage or gun laws. The only people more displeased with Obama's performance that those on the right are those on the left, Meacham said.

"We live in an unsettled ideological state. The boundaries of what it means to be left or right are falling apart," he said.

Jon MeachamThe health care debate is not rational; it has become "our domestic Vietnam."
Opposition to heath care reform, as evidenced by protests at town hall meetings, has become the way Americans are expressing their concern over the direction the government is going. Unemployment is up 10 percent. The economy is seen as the top national issue by nearly one-third of Americans. The stimulus bills came up and were passed quickly, and the public did not understand them.

"People are uneasy, anxious about the role of government," Meacham said. "Health care is where they are fighting back."

Only 8 percent of the American people see the wars in the Middle East as the nation's most critical issue.
"The public is not engaged, and the nation has too long tried to do this on the cheap."

President Obama's approval rating after one year stands at 52 percent.
That's slightly better than Bill Clinton's 52 percent after one year, but trails George W. Bush's 76 percent. The major problem with low approval ratings is their effect on mid-term elections, with the governing party losing valuable seats in Congress.

Over time, the ratings are not significant. At this point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan was almost exactly where Obama is now. It takes 25 years to evaluate a presidency, he said, citing Harry Truman's low ratings in office and his redemption by history.

The next lecturer in the Maverick Speakers Series will be former Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Ride will speak at 8 p.m., Feb. 15, in Texas Hall, 701 W.  Nedderman Drive. Tickets are required for the free lecture and will be available at