George W

George W. Nixon

George W. Bush’s Iraq misadventure has made him among the least-liked presidents in modern history, according to an ABC News/ Washington Post poll. Even Lyndon B. Johnson in the dark days of 1967-1968 was at 43 percent! And he had to decline to seek a second term over it! With regard to public approval of him, Bush is down to 33%. And only 17% say they strongly approve of his performance. (And probably they aren’t being entirely honest with us, either.) More important may be that 65 percent disapprove of his handling of the presidency. Aside from Richard Nixon, who would have been impeached if he had not resigned, this is the highest disapproval number for any president since the Great Depression, when 25 percent of the working population was unemployed. That’s what they call in the business “high negatives.”

ABC says that Bush has not yet fallen to the lows in approval ratings of three modern presidents: “Harry Truman saw 22 percent in 1952, Richard Nixon 23 percent in 1974 and Jimmy Carter 28 percent in 1979 . . .”

But let’s think about this. Bush is very nearly as hated as Nixon was in his darkest days. And, let’s face it, Bush’s crimes– from manipulating intelligence to get up a war of choice, to authorizing torture, to spying on Americans without a warrant– dwarf a minor political burglary by an order of magnitude.

And Bush is now within striking distance of being Carterized! In 2002 few could have imagined him falling in approval ratings to the level of Carter, who had the misfortune to be president during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the taking of US hostages, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, gasoline shortages and high fuel prices, a stagnant economy, high unemployment, and double-digit inflation! Indeed, Bush’s disapproval rating is now higher than Carter’s!

These are the findings on Bush’s handling of issues:

Bush’s Handling of
the Issues

Terrorism     Approve: 53%   Disapprove: 43%
Privacy Rights     Approve 52   Disapprove: 45
Taxes      Approve: 42   Disapprove: 54
Ethics      Approve: 39   Disapprove: 54
Economy      Approve: 38   Disapprove: 60
Immigration      Approve: 34   Disapprove:56
Overall job      Approve: 33   Disapprove:65
Iraq       Approve: 32   Disapprove: 66
Deficit       Approve: 27   Disapprove: 67
Gas Prices       Approve: 20   Disapprove: 76

I fear that the ire of the public with Bush is obviously owing more to annoyance with high gasoline prices (76% disapprove) than with his entire lack of ethics (54% disapprove) or his violation of privacy rights (only 45 percent disapprove)! In fact, the high oil prices are even more annoying to them than the quagmire in Iraq (66 percent disapprove)!

The lesson is once again driven home, which should have been learned from the twentieth century presidencies: You can steal from the people and spy on the people, and they don’t mind that much. But waste their blood and treasure on an inconclusive Asian land war and allow their gasoline and heating bills to rise significantly, and they will hate you passionately.

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