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Posted by on Jan 16, 2009 in Politics | 0 comments

Poll: Bush Final Legacy Appearances Fail To Sway Thumbs Down Public


Despite a farewell address, a slew of interviews and a reported private meeting with conservative talk show hosts at the White House, President George Bush’s approval ratings have not budged from what they were a few weeks ago: the public is continuing to give Bush a decisive thumbs down.

Although one conservative talk show host today talked of being genuinely moved to tears while listening to Bush’s farewell speech and realizing that he will be leaving office and served the country so well, that is not what the bulk of Americans seem to feel:

President Bush prepares to leave office with no evidence that public opinion toward him is softening during his final days in power, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

When asked about Mr. Bush’s performance over the last eight years, 22 percent of respondents said they approved. That matched Mr. Bush’s job-approval rating for much of last fall, the lowest of his presidency. In the current poll, 73 percent disapproved of his performance over the course of his two terms.

And although conservative partisans and many new and old media conservative pundits will dismiss those who don’t appreciate how well Bush has stewarded this country as just a bunch of liberals, closet liberals or card-carrying Democrats, the polls shows that Bush’s standing (which is definitely more popular than bedbugs) is partially so low since there are quite a few Republicans who will be happy to see him go, too:

Disapproval cut across party lines, with Democrats, independents and even 34 percent of Republicans critical of Mr. Bush’s performance.

In contrast, Mr. Bush’s most recent predecessors left office with approval ratings ranging from 68 percent, for both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, to 44 percent, for Jimmy Carter. Mr. Bush’s father left with 54 percent.

Although Karl Rove’s upcoming book will be certain to try to change perceptions, it turns out that a sliver full of respondents feel Bush’s Presidency was good or very good:

When asked to assess Mr. Bush’s presidency more precisely, just 17 percent of those surveyed rated it very good or good, while 83 percent said it had been average or poor. Fifty-nine percent of Americans regarded Mr. Clinton’s presidency as very good or good when he left office, and 40 percent viewed the presidency of the elder Mr. Bush the same way.

And the poll goes on to find highly negative polling numbers for not just the economy but the Iraq War, which Bush, his supporters and his old and media partisans insist will be vindicated by history and that Bush will turn out to be another Truman:

The public’s assessment of the president’s handling of both the economy and the war in Iraq was markedly negative. Seventy-seven percent disapproved of Mr. Bush’s management of the economy, and 71 percent faulted his handling of the war.

But all is not bleak:

In surveys that began with Gallup polling in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Bush has the distinction of being the president with both the highest and lowest approval ratings. The highest, 90 percent, was recorded shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The lessons?

It’s clear that feverish interviews, press conferences, lunches with conservative talk show hosts can’t erase perceptions embedded after 8 years.

It’s also clear that Bush’s controversial election was obliterated by the 911 attacks, when Americans of all parties and persuasions gave him the benefit of the doubt, stopped bickering about Florida and the Supreme Court, whole-heartedly backed him, and rightly applauded as his performance as Commander in Chief. It was also clear to most Americans, then, that some things about the way the government operated would have to change.

Some argue that this national unity and reservoir of good will ended with the Iraq war.

But it ended a lot sooner than that.

It ended when Karl Rove told GOPers that Republicans would run on the national security issue, and the politicization of national security and the terrorism issue began. The Iraq War came later.

Bush mortgaged away a tragic gift bestowed upon him by history. He mortgaged away his mantle as a highly popular, unifying Commander In Chief who spoke for all Americans after 911 to the Bank of Partisan Strategical And Tactical Gains.

And we all know what has happened to many of those who took out mortgages.

Cartoon by Nate Beeler, The Washington Examiner