Friday, February 10, 2006

Get Your Fingers Off Our Freedoms!

[[P O L L S]] * A whopping 77 percent of respondents to a new Harris Interactive poll “have reservations about the fundamental issues” raised by George W. Bush’s domestic spying operation. They tell poll-takers that no president should be allowed “to suspend constitutional guarantees in order to fight terrorism,” as Bush has been accused of doing with the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping program he authorized in 2001. That program is supposedly designed to monitor international telephone calls and electronic communications from U.S. citizens suspected of ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. However, since the operation was born in secrecy, continues to be run without congressional or judicial accountability, and has been called into question on legal grounds by authorities on both sides of America’s political spectrum, it has stimulated great opposition--even from Bush supporters.

The Harris poll finds that, among the 77 percent of respondents leery of Bush’s warrantless domestic surveillance program, 52 percent think no U.S. president should ever be allowed to “suspend the constitutional freedoms of people like you.” An additional 25 percent insist that constitutional liberties shouldn’t be deferred unless Congress or the courts authorize such a move. “Only 18 percent said a president could lift constitutional guarantees any time if it was necessary to protect the country and another 5 percent said they did not know or declined to answer,” Reuters reports.
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While we’re on the subject of opinion assessments, a brand-new AP-Ipsos poll shows that Bush came away from his recent State of the Union (SOTU) address with no bounce in his favorability ratings. The Associated Press observes that “President Bush’s marks on overall job approval and for handling the economy are mired near their lowest levels despite a spike in consumer confidence over the past month ... Bush’s job approval is now at 40 percent and his approval on handling the economy at 39 percent. Those numbers haven’t budged over the last month ...” While the White House busily downplayed the likelihood of Bush’s low approval picking up after his annual address to Congress, dismissing the “traditional post-SOTU bounce” as a myth, Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report points out that “Bill Clinton usually scored big with his SOTU addresses. In his seven addresses (the 1993 speech wasn’t considered a SOTU), Clinton’s approval rating went up five times, with an increase ranging from two points (in 1995) to 10 points (in 1998).”

This same AP-Ipsos survey finds 47 percent of respondents wanting Democrats to take control of Congress after the November midterm elections, with only 37 percent preferring that Republicans remain dominant on Capitol Hill. Those numbers are in line with findings in other polls, including one conducted before the State of the Union address by The Washington Post.

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