Tuesday, April 11, 2006

You Can’t Fool All the People All the Time

[[P O L L S]] * No wonder Americans don’t trust George W. Bush: He can’t seem to keep his stories straight. In the case of the Iraq war, for instance, he originally declared that the U.S. military would lead an assault on Saddam Hussein, because the Iraqi leader “has weapons of mass destruction--the world’s deadliest weapons--which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens and our friends and allies.” Subsequently, the prez suggested that the war had been launched in the interest of “regime change,” and still later, that “we went to war because we were attacked”--apparently forgetting (or am I being too generous here?) that there were no Iraqis among the 19 hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. With more than 2,360 U.S fatalities having been counted in his war so far (along with 105 other “coalition” deaths), Bush continues to spout a confusing combination of those rationales (and more) whenever he’s pressured to defend his bombing and occupation of Iraq.

Now, he’s been caught bobbing and weaving around the truth once more, this time hoping to excuse himself for authorizing leaks of classified intelligence information to New York Times reporter Judith Miller in 2003. This “scandal-ette” within the larger CIA leak scandal might not have been such a big deal, had Bush restrained himself from making a grand production of his innocence in the first place. (“I’d like to know if somebody in my White House did leak sensitive information,” he told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden on October 23, 2003, his face as straight as a board). It might also have helped had he not, in the years since then, denounced the media for printing sensitive information spread around by other leakers within his administration. And, once Bush’s complicity had been revealed, he could certainly have saved himself some embarrassment and justifiable criticism by ’fessing up to this error of judgment, and not tried instead to weasel out of responsibility with the contention that he’d in fact declassified the information in question prior to allowing Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, the now indicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, to leak it to the Times’ Miller. (As Salon’s War Room blog points out, the timeline for such a declassification scenario doesn’t add up. Why, for example, was Bush’s national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, still trying to have the same information declassified a month later?)

This incident and the concerted dissembling (or, in Dubya’s distorted lexicon, “disassembling”) that has followed it seems to be further eroding public trust in the already beleaguered prez. A new Gallup Poll finds that 63 percent of Americans believe Bush did something illegal (21 percent) or at least unethical (42 percent) in authorizing the leaking of information to Miller, while only 28 percent say he did nothing wrong. And it isn’t just Democrats and an increasing number of independents who’ve lost faith in Bush’s candor; three in 10 Republicans questioned by Gallup also think their man acted illegally or unethically.
* * *
On the subject of Bush’s decline, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that “political reversals at home and continued bad news from Iraq have dragged President Bush’s standing with the public to a new low” in this survey. Only 38 percent of Americans say they approve of Bush’s job performance, “down three percentage points in the past month and his worst showing in Post-ABC polling since he became president. Sixty percent disapprove of his performance.” The paper goes on to note that “Bush’s job approval rating has remained below 50 percent for nearly a year. Perhaps more ominous for the president, 47 percent in the latest poll say they ‘strongly’ disapprove of Bush’s handling of the presidency--more than double the 20 percent who strongly approve. It marked the second straight month that the proportion of Americans intensely critical of the president was larger than his overall job approval rating. In comparison, the percentage who strongly disapproved of President Bill Clinton on that measure never exceeded 33 percent in Post-ABC News polls.”

More bad news for Bush’s fellow Republicans who hope to win or at least stay in national office after the November midterm elections: “A majority of registered voters, 55 percent, say they plan to vote for the Democratic candidate in their House district, while 40 percent support the Republican candidate. That is the largest share of the electorate favoring Democrats in Post-ABC polls since the mid-1980s.”

No comments: