Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Nobody Is a Friend of Ours. Let’s Face It*

[[P O L L S]] * George W. Bush is racing his fellow Republican Richard M. Nixon to the bottom of the presidential popularity charts. A new Gallup Poll finds more than four in 10 Americans “strongly disapproving” of the job Bush is doing in the Oval Office. As Raw Story notes, that’s “the highest of any president except Nixon in the waning months of his presidency.” A dismal 40 percent of survey respondents believe Bush can still be effective in managing the federal government--“the worst rating he has received on this measure during his presidency,” according to Gallup. Doubtful of the prez’s competence, just 38 percent of those polled say Bush is paying “enough attention to what his administration is doing,” while 58 percent believe he’s not.

This poll gives Bush a 38 percent job approval rating, echoing other recent surveys. Sixty percent of Americans now disapprove of the job Bush is doing as U.S. chief executive.

Don’t think it’s only Democrats who are driving Bush’s numbers down; respect for his “leadership” is tumbling across the political spectrum, as Gallup observes:

Forty-nine percent of Republicans now strongly approve of Bush, the lowest expression of solidarity with Bush by his own party to date. A majority of Democrats, 68%, strongly disapprove of Bush--as they have each time the intensity follow-up has been asked since September 2003. For the first time, a majority of independents, 53%, now strongly disapprove of Bush. ...

For the first time since he took office, Bush’s approval rating among self-identified conservatives has fallen below 60%. Bush has averaged 77% approval among conservatives (this includes conservatives who identify as Republicans, independents, or Democrats). Thirty-one percent of moderates and 12% of liberals currently approve of Bush.
Returning to the matter of the intensity of voter disapproval, Gallup explains that “more than twice as many Americans say they strongly disapprove (44%) as say they strongly approve (20%) of Bush. ... Nixon is the only other president to register strong disapproval ratings above 40% in Gallup Polls. Nixon had a 48% strong disapproval rating in February 1974, and a 46% rating days before he resigned from office in August 1974.”

The Bush White House famously insists that it pays little or no attention to polls. But probably the same number of people take that at face value as believe that George Peppard can give movie-making advice from the grave. Fact is, one’s power in the Oval Office depends at least in part on Americans taking you seriously. If 58 percent of them think you’re out of the loop (on the Dubai ports deal and other matters of current significance), then the media soon start to see lame duck feathers sprouting out of your ass, and pretty soon you’re having to insist that you are still relevant. Bush is now approaching that point. Thanks to a weak-spined Republican-dominated Congress, he still seems able to win support for renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act and for killing a warranted probe of his warrantless domestic spying program. However, the fact that the debate over Bush’s impeachment has finally reached the mainstream press suggests that the narrative of his presidency is starting to escape his influence. Just as happened to Richard Nixon three decades ago.

READ MORE:Bush, Lies, and Videotape,” by James Carroll (The Boston Globe); “At Conservative Forum on Bush, Everybody’s a Critic,” by Dana Milbank (The Washington Post); “Veep Doo-Doo,” by Hendrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker).

* A statement Nixon made to White House counsel John W. Dean in 1973 not long after the president had been re-elected to a second term.

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