Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2002 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The Fox News survey of October 22-24 shows President Bush at his lowest level of popularity since before Sept. 11. The survey shows a huge falloff in the president's ratings in the past two weeks. His job approval has dropped from 66 percent to 60 percent since Oct. 8 and support for an attack on Iraq has fallen from 72 percent to 62 percent in the same period. Between early September and the latest poll, Bush's favorable rating has dropped 10 points.
Bush seems to alternate in his presidency between periods of dynamic and aggressive control over events and those of an almost passive inability to control them. The periods of each are clear-cut to all who monitor his presidency. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, he was as strong and successful as one can possibly imagine a president being.
During the late winter and spring of 2002, however, he seemed rudderless as he was mired in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, weakly sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to plead for peace in the embattled region. He seemed to regain his stature when he demanded the ouster of Yasir Arafat and continued to dominate the scene as he addressed the United Nations and the American people in September, pushing through the use of force resolution in the early days of October.
Since those heady days, it's been downhill for the president, at just the time when he can least afford it. In the past two weeks, he has seemed stymied by, of all things, French opposition to his plans. Stumbling in the United Nations, campaigning in a business-as-usual way for his party's candidates, he scarcely looks like a president with a grave national security crisis on his hands.
By miniaturizing himself in the Security Council and on the campaign trail, he is losing the commanding presidential stature so vital to his high ratings. When Bush waits while the striped pants diplomats haggle with Paris and tours the nation eating rubber chicken on behalf of candidates for governor, senator, Congress and dog catcher, then how are we to believe that our nation's life is on the line? How can Bush generate the sense of urgency and crisis he needs to sustain his momentum when all appears to be business as usual?
Ever since Bill Clinton said "yes" to the Republicans and welfare, and crime rates dropped, the Democrats have controlled the issue agenda. It is their concerns, which dominate the nation's consciousness. Asked, in the Fox News poll, what are the major issues facing America, 25 percent cited the economy, 17 percent terror, 14 percent healthcare, 12 percent education, 11 percent Social Security, and only 5 percent Iraq (respondents were read the list). Healthcare, education and Social Security are not winning issues for the GOP and the economy is, at best, a break-even proposition. Asked how Bush is doing in handling the economy, only 48 percent approved, down from 56 percent in the spring.
Bush is losing control over events and they are resuming their "normal" Democratic drift. It is only by superimposing a sense of crisis about terror and Iraq that Bush has been able to defy the trend. Now the spell seems to be wearing off as Bush reverts to business as usual.
To say that this drop in the president's job approval augurs ill for the outcome of next week's election is putting it mildly. Unless Bush turns it around, disaster may lie ahead.
In 1994, Bill Clinton returned from successfully negotiating a peace deal between Jordan and Israel. His sagging job rating rose 10 points. He immediately went on the campaign trail and he lost his presidential image. His ratings dropped the 10 points he had gained and the Republicans took both Houses of Congress.
Is history repeating itself?
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10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?