Monday, September 19, 2005

Bush’s “Can’t Win” Dynamic

[[P O L L S]] * Two new opinion analyses support the findings of an earlier Rasmussen Reports survey, which suggested that George W. Bush’s vow to spend hundreds of billions of dollars rebuilding the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast didn’t improve his standing with the American public. In fact, his job approval ratings have fallen further since his televised prime-time address from New Orleans’ French Quarter last Friday.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released today shows Bush with a 40-percent job approval rating, while a stunning 58 percent of respondents say they disapproval of his performance in office. Only 41 percent give the prez their thumbs up for his handling of the post-Katrina situation, while 57 percent turn thumbs down. And just 49 percent call Bush a strong and decisive leader (a drop from 54 percent in July), while 50 percent now say they question his honesty. A mere 25 percent of respondents voice great confidence in the Bush administration’s ability to rebuild New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities; another 43 percent say they harbor a moderate amount of confidence, and 31 percent say they have little or no confidence that the administration will do the work necessary.

The same survey finds 32 percent of Americans continuing to express their faith in the prez’s management of the Iraq war (which has now lasted more than two years and claimed the lives of almost 1,900 U.S. soldiers), while 67 percent say they disapprove of Bush’s handling of that conflict. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed say the 2003 invasion of Saddam Hussein’s homeland was a mistake--the highest such reading yet in this poll--while 39 percent still contend that the United States did the right thing. Sixty-three percent express interest in withdrawing some or all U.S. troops from Iraq. Fifty-four percent would like war spending slashed in order to pay for Gulf Coast recovery efforts, and 45 percent say they’re willing to make “major sacrifices” in order to cover the exorbitant costs of post-hurricane rebuilding.

Meanwhile, SurveyUSA reports that “a ‘can’t win’ dynamic is unfolding for the president.” The latest SUSA poll shows that 40 percent of Americans now approve of Bush’s response to the hurricane, down from 42 percent before his Big Easy speech. Fifty-six percent disapprove of the prez’s response to Katrina, compared with 54 percent before his national address. The biggest hit Bush is taking seems to be coming from his erstwhile supporters. “The more cash President Bush throws on the fire, as compensation for what some see as an inadequate initial response,” SUSA explains, “the more it antagonizes his core supporters. Consider, for example: the number of Whites who today say the Government is ‘not doing enough’ for Katrina victims is statistically the same as the number of Whites who say the Government is doing ‘just the right amount.’ (41% ‘right amount’; 40% ‘not enough.’) The number of Blacks who today say the Government is ‘not doing enough’ is 51 percentage points higher than the number of Blacks who say the Government is doing the ‘right amount.’ (70% ‘not enough’; 19% ‘right amount.’) That’s a 53-point disagreement between Whites and Blacks on this question.” Also demonstrating that Bush is “damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t”? Forty-one percent of SUSA respondents say that New Orleans should be reconstructed using private funds, “the highest that number has been in the 19 days since the storm.” Those contending that public money should be used instead amounts to 27 percent, “as low as it has been in 19 days of daily tracking.”

And while the majority of criticism leveled at Bush recently has come from Democrats and independents, it seems now that his fellow conservatives have declared open season on his ass as well. The American Spectator, a right-wing magazine that was once instrumental in trying to destroy Bill Clinton’s presidency, today opines that “barring some imaginative political moves that bear some resemblance to the Bush Administration circa 2002, Republicans on Capitol Hill and even some longtime Bush team members in various Cabinet level departments say this Administration is done for.” The Spectator adds that “Congressional committee sources on both sides of Capitol Hill predict tough slogging on anything of policy consequence. ‘Social Security is dead as far as my chairman is concerned. So are the tax cuts,’ says a Ways and Means staffer of Chairman Bill Thomas. Before hurricane season wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast and in Washington, the thinking was that Thomas was poised to take up a major tax bill that might feature several critical components of the Bush Administration’s Social Security reform. Now those plans appear to have dimmed considerably.”

Amazing what damage Mother Nature can do, eh?

ADDENDUM: Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) may not have ousted Bush from the Oval Office last November, but he’s hardly remained silent since. In a speech delivered today at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, Kerry did his best to soil the Bush White House with the mistakes surrounding Hurricane Katrina. “This is the Katrina administration,” he declared. “It has consistently squandered time, tax dollars, political capital, and even risked American lives on sideshow adventures: A war of choice in Iraq against someone who had nothing to do with 9/11; a full scale presidential assault on Social Security when everyone knows the real crisis is in health care--Medicare and Medicaid. And that’s before you get to willful denial on global warming; avoidance on competitiveness; complicity in the loss and refusal of health care to millions.” The Gulf Coast hurricane, Kerry contends, “is a symbol of all this administration does and doesn’t do. Michael Brown--or ‘Brownie,’ as the President so famously thanked him for doing a heck of a job--Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq; what George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence; what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad; what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy; what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning; what Tom DeLay is to ethics; and what George Bush is to ‘Mission Accomplished’ and ‘Wanted Dead or Alive.’ The bottom line is simple: The ‘we’ll do whatever it takes’ administration doesn’t have what it takes to get the job done.”

READ MORE:Time to Put the Bush Tax Cuts on Trial,” by David Sirota (The Huffington Post); “Dodging the Costs of the Warfare State,” by Norman Solomon (TruthOut); “Prelude to an Exit Strategy,” by Ari Berman (The Nation); “Tragedy in Black and White,” by Paul Krugman (The New York Times); “A New Storm on the Right,” by Robert Scheer (Los Angeles Times); “Wake Up,” by Cindy Sheehan (TruthOut); “Separate Schools for Katrina Students?,” by Michael Scherer (Salon).

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