Sunday, January 29, 2006

Stonewalling Before Candor

[[P O L L S]] * Although the White House tries to downplay George W. Bush’s connections (both photographic and financial) to the influence-peddling scandal that surrounds Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, with the prez telling the press, lamely, that “I don’t know him,” polls show increasing public demands for candor regarding links between the administration and the former D.C. “golden boy.” According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 76 percent of Americans think “Bush should release lists of all meetings between aides and Abramoff; 18 percent disagreed. Two in three Republicans joined with eight in 10 Democrats and political independents in favoring disclosure ...” The same survey found that “56 percent of the public disapproved of the way Bush is handling ethics in government, up seven percentage points in the past five weeks. An equally large majority says the type of wrongdoing admitted by Abramoff is ‘widespread’ in Washington.”

Worried that this latest Bush administration scandal will do further damage to their slim chances of maintaining control over both houses of Congress in the November midterm elections, Republicans are urging the prez to release records of White House contacts with Abramoff. “Why give--if you want to talk about it in strict political terms--why give the Democrats an opportunity, or the press to keep this story going?” Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) said on ABC-TV’s This Week.

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Democrats have certainly been benefiting from the Bush administration’s last year of woes. Among the other conclusions to be drawn from this new Post-ABC poll is that by a 14-point margin, Americans think the country should follow the lead of Democrats, rather that the one set by Bush and his fellow Republicans. As the Post explains today:

The Post-ABC News poll offers a revealing portrait of a restless electorate at the start of the campaign year. By 51 percent to 35 percent, Americans said they preferred to go in the direction outlined by congressional Democrats rather than the direction established by the president. On the eve of last year’s State of the Union address, 45 percent said they preferred to follow the path of the president, compared with 39 percent who said they favored the Democrats’ course.

By 54 percent to 38 percent, voters surveyed said they would vote for the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate for the House in November. That is one of the largest margins favoring the Democrats in two decades, although the gerrymandered House districts mean that incumbents are safer today than they were in the past.

By 51 percent to 37 percent, Americans said they trust the Democrats more than the Republicans with the main problems facing the country over the next few years, the first time since spring 1992 that Democrats have gained more than 50 percent support on that question.

Four in 10 (43 percent) surveyed said they approve of the way Congress is doing its job, while 64 percent said they approve of the job their own member of the House is doing. In comparison, in March 1994, the year Republicans captured control of the House and Senate, approval of the Democratic-controlled Congress stood at 35 percent, with 62 percent approving the job their own House member was doing.

Democrats have gained ground in the past two months on two other measures. The public sees Democrats as more likely to stand up to lobbyists and special-interest groups, 46 percent to 27 percent. In December, Democrats held a lead of eight percentage points. Republicans still are viewed as having stronger leaders, but Democrats have narrowed that gap by more than half.
READ MORE:Poll: Weak Ratings Confront Bush Ahead of State of Union,” by Greg Langer (ABC News); “Scandal Too Close to White House? Remove the Prosecutor!” (; “Picturegate Inspires No Media Outrage,” by Joe Conason (New York Observer); “President Jonah,” by Gore Vidal (Truthdig).

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