Polls: Bush palls

poll graphic

Familiarity breeds contempt?

This just in: Abe Lincoln was right: You can't fool all the people all the time.

Katrina did what the Democrats have been unable or unwilling to do: Show the American people that George W Bush isn't a real president, he just plays one on TV. For well over four years now, W fooled more than half the people all the time by presiding over a carefully stage-managed presidency, one in which his handlers took great care to choose the right sets, get the camera angles right, and above all, keep anyone not a pre-screened, certified supporter out of the picture.

They used to call Ronald Reagan the "Teflon president" because nothing ever stuck to him — not even Ollie North and the Iran contra scandal. But W has put the Gipper to shame. W has started a war under false pretenses, bankrupted the treasury, given medals to those who failed most egregiously, and raised cronyism to heights not seen since the days of Warren G Harding and the Teapot Dome. Yet he convinced more people to vote for him the second time than the first time by playing the "security card," even against a genuine war hero like John Kerry.

Katrina not only tore holes in the roof of the SuperDome but also ripped away the mask of Protector in Chief. While Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast, W stayed cocooned in Crawford, emerging only for political fund raising and political speeches to his base. Although everyone in the world with a TV set know about the devastation and dire consequences of Katrina, the heads of Homeland Security and FEMA remained blissfully ignorant, and the federal government stood impotently by as people died and floated in the streets of New Orleans.

The political devastation wrought by Katrina and the government's bungled non-response are now being measured by poll after public opinion poll. The New York Times / CBS poll released today shows just how much the American people are so over W. They don't approve of how he's doing his job, they think the country is off on the wrong track, and they think he has the wrong priorities.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as President?
Do you feel things in this country are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?
Do you think George W. Bush has the same priorities for the country as you have, or not?

Issue by issue, people clearly think W has the wrong end of the stick:

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling foreign policy?
Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the economy?
Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?

W has been sold as a strong and decisive leader who knows just what to do to keep the country safe from terrorists. But even here, sentiment is shifting:

Do you think George W. Bush has strong qualities of leadership, or not?
Same question, February 2001 results at beginning of W's term
Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the campaign against terrorism?
Same question, December 2001 results, after 9/11

Tonight Bush makes yet another trip to New Orleans, this time to give a speech to the nation. As is typical for the Bush presidency, he'll speak from historic Jackson Square, with the famous St. Louis Cathedral as a backdrop. He's sure to talk about the suffering of the people of New Orleans and the gulf, but not one of them will be in sight. There won't be a live audience at all, in fact, and there won't be questions from the media — they've been told to stay in their broadcast trucks! This is all about trying to make people forget those images of the people pleading for help, images of the floating bodies, images notable for the absence of the federal government..

If you really want to understand the Bush approach to the reconstruction of New Orleans, all you need to know was contained in a small paragraph near the end of a NY Times article this morning:

Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development.
Bush to Focus on Vision for Reconstruction in Speech,
By Elisabeth Bumiller and Richard W. Stevenson, NY Times, 15-Sep-05

If you're having trouble drawing inferences from that, try this: It will all be done to maximize political advantage for Bush, the people be damned!

Just as for every other issue, people are split in their opinion of how Bush has handled Katrina so far:

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the response to Hurricane Katrina?
What about the people affected by Hurricane Katrina? Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is responding to the needs of people affected by Hurricane Katrina?

The damning data come when you split the responses to the previous question by race.

Whites
Blacks

It's unlikely that Bush will say anything tonight that will change people's minds. They will see his speech for what it is: an attempt to regain lost political ground by a well-scripted speech in front of a compelling backdrop.

Would you be willing or not willing to pay more in taxes to help with the recovery from Hurricane Katrina?

The American people are ready to make sacrifices to help with the reconstruction of the gulf, but Bush will almost certainly not ask them to sacrifice. In fact, he's more likely to use the occasion to justify more tax cuts that will go to the wealthy. But the polls show that Americans believe that the recovery is more more important than tax cuts and are even willing to pay more taxes to pay for the recovery.

But there are limits: Just don't ask Americans to pay more for the gasoline!

Would you be willing or not willing to pay more for gasoline to help with the recovery from Hurricane Katrina?

Belief in government

One of the more sobering findings from the Times/CBS News poll is that Americans' faith in government is very low. Most people disapprove of the way Congress does its job, and trust that our elected leaders will do the right thing is disturbingly low.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?
How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right -- just about always, most of the time, or only some of the time?