Tuesday, June 28, 2005

How Low Can He Go?

From CNN:

"(CNN) -- The number of Americans disapproving of President Bush's job performance has risen to the highest level of his presidency, according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

According to the poll, 53 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's performance, compared to 45 percent who approved.

The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The 53 percent figure was the highest disapproval rating recorded in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll since Bush became president in January 2001.

The approval percentage -- 45 percent -- matches a low point set in late March. The 8-point gap between those who disapproved and approved was the largest recorded during Bush's tenure.

As Bush prepares to address the nation Tuesday to defend his Iraq policy, just 40 percent of those responding to the poll said they approved of his handling of the war; 58 percent said they disapproved.

The approval rating on Iraq was unchanged from a poll in late May, and the disapproval figure marked an increase of 2 percentage points.

But the poll also found that issues other than the Iraq war may be dragging down Bush's numbers.

Respondents expressed even stronger disapproval of his handling of the economy, energy policy, health care and Social Security."

The lone bright spot for the president in the poll was his handling of terrorism, which scored a 55 percent approval rating, compared to just 41 percent who disapproved.

What's a preznit to do when his poll numbers tank because he's bogged the nation down into a war of choice that Americans increasingly think will either go on indefinitely or end badly?

HAVE A PRESS CONFERENCE!!! From the Associated Press:

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is using the first anniversary of Iraq's sovereignty to try to ease Americans' doubts about the mission and outline a winning strategy for a violent conflict that has cost the lives of more than 1,740 U.S. troops and has no end in sight.

In a prime-time address from Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division, Bush was to argue that there is no need to change course in Iraq despite the upsetting images produced by daily insurgent attacks.

His assessment comes on the heels of a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll that showed public doubts about the war reaching a high point -- with more than half saying that invading Iraq was a mistake.

Although attacks frequently take the lives of American troops, Bush has said they will not leave until Iraqi security forces are trained and equipped to keep the peace. He has refused to give a timetable for troop withdrawal, even though some Democrats and a few Republicans in Congress are supporting a resolution that calls for Bush to start bringing them home by Oct. 1, 2006...

...Bush's speech is part of a new public-relations campaign from the White House to try to calm anxieties about the war. It comes after several conflicting or perplexing messages about the nature and duration of the conflict.

Vice President Dick Cheney made headlines last month with his assertion that the insurgency in Iraq was 'in its last throes.' He was later contradicted by the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, and by Rumsfeld, who said the insurgency could drag on for years.

Rumsfeld also told an interviewer this month that Iraq is 'statistically' no safer today than it was before the ouster of Saddam Hussein, although he maintains progress is being made.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a conference on Iraq's reconstruction last week that defeating terrorism in Iraq would 'be a death knell for terrorism as we know it.'''

The piece goes on to say that we will get plenty of allusions to 9/11 tonight during Bush's speech. Obviously Karl Rove can read the tea leaves and see that in nearly every poll released in the past month, the only numbers Bush has logging in over 50% are his terrorism numbers. Therefore Bush is going to remind Americans about 9/11 and subtly (or not so subtly) suggest that defeating Saddam helped defeat the 9/11 terrorists and has made the nation safer from terrorism.

Will America be bamboozled tonight? Will they believe Bush's argument that the Iraq War has made us safer even though the conflict that has bogged our military down indefinitely in a war of choice and stretched our forces thin with two and three tours of duty overseas? Will they believe Bush's assertions that we are making progress in Iraq when all evidence in the newspapers and on the television contradicts that statement? In other words, will they believe their eyes or Bush's words?

For most of his presidency, George W. Bush has been able to lie, deceive, mislead, and manipulate the American public with his well-written speeches and public statements. Americans have believed the myth that Bush is a "straight-shooter" who says what he believes and tells it like it is to America. But the disconnect between his rhetoric on Iraq and the body count showing up in the news has eradicated much of Bush's "straight-shooter" mythos.

I will be interested to see whether Bush tries to level with the American people tonight and say we've got years of fighting in Iraq ahead of us if we want to succeed or if he continues to bamboozle the nation by saying we are making progress and we must stay the course despite the awful casualties. And if Bush tries the bamboozling root, I can't wait to see if Americans buy it or not.

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