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Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2002 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Consumer Reports

Is Bush losing control over events? | 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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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris