Bush Seen Increasingly as a Failed President
by Jim Lobe
growing signs of disarray and malaise in the White House, U.S. President
George W. Bush is seen increasingly by the public at large as a
failure whose policies, particularly regarding the economy and the
budget, have harmed more than helped the country, according to a
major new poll released here Thursday.
poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press also
found that Bush's public approval ratings have fallen to an all-time
low of 38 percent and that public support for maintaining troops
in Iraq, where a constitutional referendum will take place Saturday,
US electorate is now evenly split between those who believe the
US should withdraw as soon as possible and those who believe the
troops should stay until the country is stabilized.
poll, which was conducted Oct. 610 among 1,500 randomly chosen
adults across the nation, also shows declining support for the Republican
Party and should give hope to Democratic strategists who believe
their party has a good chance to regain control of at least one
house of Congress in the mid-term elections in November 2006.
70 percent of respondents said they hope to elect a president "who
offers different policies" than those put forth by Bush and,
by a 48-32 percent margin, they believe that the Democratic Party
"can bring needed changes to the country."
the other hand, the assessment of the Democratic leadership in Congress
appears no stronger than that of their Republican counterparts,
despite the recent criminal indictments in Texas of House Majority
Leader Tom DeLay and an investigation into stock trades by Senate
Majority Leader Bill Frist.
of the two party leaderships received the approval of only 32 percent
of the public, a continuation of a downward trend in public confidence
in Congress. On the question of which party is most likely to govern
"in an honest and ethical way," however, the Democrats
were chosen by a 40-30 percent margin, their biggest advantage on
the issue since 1994 when Republicans took control of both houses
of Congress for the first time in more than a generation.
hope that the 2006 elections will bring about a similar swing. In
another survey released Wednesday night by the Wall Street Journal,
48 percent of respondents said they hoped the Democrats would achieve
that goal, while only 39 percent said they favored Republican control.
latest survey comes amid growing evidence of disarray within the
Bush White House, which has been forced on the defensive over the
last two months on a range of issues. Foremost among these are the
war in Iraq, the wider war on terror, its performance in dealing
with Hurricane Katrina, high petrol prices, and, most recently,
the nomination of the president's longtime attorney, White House
Counsel Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court.
last move has created deep rifts within Bush's own right-wing constituency,
both because Miers' views on issues such as abortion rights and
the relationship between church and state that are of central
importance to the Christian Right, in particular, are unknown and
because her lack of experience in constitutional law suggests that
she was chosen more for her personal loyalty to the president rather
than to a particular ideology.
concerns, which have only grown and become more controversial since
the appointment was announced earlier this month, have clearly demoralized
party activists already unhappy over Bush's steady slide in the
polls and his reaction to Katrina.
addition, Bush himself, in some of his recent public or media appearances,
has seemed more distracted and quicker to anger than usual, most
notably in a widely-remarked interview of the president and Laura
Bush conducted by NBC television's Matt Lauer Tuesday.
Thursday, the White House press briefing was dominated by questions
about the "scripting" of a video exchange between Bush
and US troops in Iraq, in which the latter were told what to ask
and how to respond in advance.
analysts here attribute the accumulating image-management problems
to growing concerns within the White House about the possibility
that Bush's closest political adviser, Karl Rove, and Vice President
Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby,
may soon be indicted in connection with their role in leaking the
identity of a covert CIA officer whose husband had badly embarrassed
the administration over its reasons for going to war in Iraq.
to this view, Rove, whom Bush has long referred to as his "boy-genius,"
has been distracted by the investigation, which has also fostered
debilitating tensions between Rove and Bush's chief of staff, Andrew
Card. It may have also weakened Cheney's role, generally regarded
as the most powerful of any vice president in history.
is particularly remarkable about the Pew survey, however, is how
quickly Bush's fortunes have fallen, particularly since his inaugural
in January and since Pew's last soundings in July and September.
overall approval ratings stood at 50 percent historically low
for a just-re-elected president in January, slid to 44 percent
in July, and only 38 percent this month.
36 percent of respondents said that they thought that Bush would
be a "successful" president last January. That number
has fallen to 26 percent, while those who believe he will be "unsuccessful"
have climbed from 27 percent in January to a plurality of 41 percent
compares unfavorably to former President Bill Clinton's low-point
just before the 1994 elections when 35 percent of respondents thought
he would be unsuccessful.
more worrisome for Republicans, the survey found "a notable
lack of enthusiasm" for Bush's performance among respondents
who identified themselves as party loyalists and the continuation
of a long-standing trend of disillusionment with Bush among "independents"
who traditionally decide elections.
to the overall direction of the country, the 40 percent who said
they were "satisfied" in January, slipped to 35 percent
in July, and 29 percent today. The 54 percent who said they were
"dissatisfied" 10 months ago has risen to 65 percent.
only area in which a plurality gave him a positive assessment was
on national security, but even there Iraq appears to have become
more and more of an albatross. A majority of 52 percent favor setting
a timetable for withdrawal (43 percent oppose); while 55 percent
up from 50 percent in July fear that the US will "wait
too long" to do so, compared to 32 percent who worry that Washington
will "leave too soon."
poll found a sharp decline in the percentage of respondents who
said the military effort in Iraq is going either very or fairly
well from 53 percent last month to 44 percent in October. The
plunge was particularly sharp for men, a 16-percent drop in just
survey also found that the public was paying little attention to
the constitutional referendum in Iraq but believed that it would
have a relatively small impact on stabilizing the country.
finding may give some heart to the administration because there
was a similar skepticism about just before last January's elections.
The smoother-than-expected balloting then, however, boosted support
for the US military presence there over the following several months,
although it has since fallen to record lows.
Lobe [send him mail]
is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service