Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Bush’s Popularity

Here’s a new bit of polling data from Gallup:


PRINCETON, NJ — President George W. Bush’s job approval rating has dropped significantly over the last two weeks, and now, at 52%, is at its lowest point since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and within one point of the lowest rating during his presidency. The percentage of Americans who disapprove of Bush’s performance, 43%, is the highest measured since he took office. Bush’s job approval rating on his handling of the situation in Iraq has dropped from 57% to 51%, and a slight majority of Americans say Congress should not authorize Bush’s request for $87 billion in additional funding for Iraq and the war on terrorism.

This is simply one example of a dramatic decline in Bush’s approval numbers over the past month. (See Pollkatz for a great graphic.) As people realize that the emperor has no clothes, one wonders: what will Rove think of to give Bush his next bump in popularity? A war would work well, but all of the easy targets are now gone…

Does anyone have any suggestions?


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Aid to Cows

I love this image from the BBC’s Cancun coverage:

It’s a nice graphic depiction of the oft-cited comparison (slightly specious, but still good for making the point) that the annual dairy subsidy in the European Union in 2000 was $913 per cow, average income in sub-Saharan Africa was $490 per capita, and the EU’s annual aid to sub-Saharan Africa was $8 per person. There’s nothing like giving something with one hand and taking away with the other…


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Proposal for a 2004 Campaign Theme

Picking up where AB left off with this post, here’s my proposal for the theme of the anti-Bush 2004 campaign:

Time after time, George Bush’s policies fail to work. The Bush presidency has been a complete failure.

You probably recognize this as an elaboration of Gephardt’s excellent “miserable failure” line from the Democratic debate in New Mexico. But the real fun comes with the specific examples you can play with. Here’s how to play: Simply take any of Bush’s policies, and then couch it in terms of how his policies have failed to do what he said they were intended to do.

Here is the beginning of a list of specific failures:

1. The job market: Bush has repeatedly said that his economic plan, consisting exclusively of tax cuts that go largely to the wealthy, would help the economy; it has not. The White House said that the 2001 tax cuts would create millions of new jobs “and provide a foundation for economy-wide recovery in 2002” – but nearly two years later, no improvement in the job market is evident, and jobs continue to disappear month after month. His economic plan to has utterly failed.

2. The budget: Bush promised that “he would not burden future generations with the nation’s pressing domestic problems.” He has failed, and instead will run up record deficits not just now, but as far as the eye can see. Bush has repeatedly talked of the need to “restrain government spending.” Yet government spending during the Bush administration – with the help of a Republican Congress – has risen at a faster pace than any time since the 1960s. His management of the US budget has been an abject failure.

3. Osama bin Laden: On Sept. 13, 2001, George Bush said “The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him!” After two years of somewhat distracted searching, he has failed to find him.

4. Afghanistan: Bush vowed to eliminate al Qaeda and the Taliban, to create a “stable Afghanistan” that would no longer harbor terrorists, to relieve the country’s oppression by religious fundamentalists, and to “eradicate narco-trafficking out of Afghanistan.” But both al Qaeda and the Taliban are still alive and well, Afghanistan is not stable, religious oppression is still rampant, much of the country is still a safe-haven for terrorists, and the country has flooded world markets with cheap narcotics over the past two years. Another huge failure.

5. Iraq: You don’t need my help with this one.

6. Korea: Clinton had successfully gotten North Korea to cease its nuclear weapons program and allow UN inspectors into the country, and was on the verge of getting North Korea to give up its long-range missile program. Bush failed to finish the deal on long-range missiles, however, and North Korea now has a vibrant long-range missile program. Bush also tried to keep them from restarting their nuclear weapons program; he failed. Since then, he has tried to get them to give up their nuclear program. But North Korea continues developing nuclear weapons, is on the verge of testing one, and is more dangerous than ever before. His North Korea policy is a spectacular failure.

7. The Middle East: Bush tried to let the Israelis and Palestinians work out an agreement on their own. When that strategy failed, he tried to design a roadmap to peace, and hoped that the roadmap would work with minimal American intervention. But the cycle of violence seems to get continually worse rather than better. Yet another Bush failure.

8. Political discourse: Bush promised to be a uniter, not a divider, and to change the tone of politics in Washington. However, he has failed (I wouldn’t be writing this otherwise), and US politics are more divisive and partisan than they have ever been in recent history.

9. Add your own favorite examples! It’s fun for the whole family!


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Negotiating Tactics in Cancun

Right now an important meeting of trade ministers is happening in Cancun, Mexico, where they are discussing possible changes to WTO rules. I’ve been worried that the US was going to get taken advantage of in the negotiations, though. So I was glad to read this story from the BBC reporting that US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick knows how to play hard ball with those greedy, selfish developing countries. I’m tired of those poor countries constantly bullying the US and getting their way. It’s about time that we stop them — so don’t give them an inch, Bob!

Rich and poor clash over farm aid

Europe and the United States have been accused of trying to break up a powerful new alliance of poor states bent on rewriting global trade rules.

The Group of 21 (G21), which includes China, India and Brazil, has threatened the traditional dominance of rich countries during world trade talks in Cancun, Mexico.

The G21 is demanding the complete abolition of subsidies paid by rich countries to their farmers which, they say, locks the developing world out of international markets.

But aid agency Action Aid has accused the US delegation at Cancun of attempting to alternately cajole and bully poor nations into leaving the G21 – an accusation the Americans have denied.

The charity claims US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick attempted to bribe some countries into dropping out of the group with trade incentives.

It said Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala had been offered increased trade quotas if they quit the alliance.

The BBC has lots of great coverage of the goings-on there, for those who are interested. Stay tuned…


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, and DC, Northern Virginia, and Shanksville, PA

Since then, we’ve failed to capture Osama bin Laden, and the president now no longer mentions his name, invaded a country with no documented ties to bin Laden or the attacks, allowed bin Laden’s family members to vacate the country (apparently without first questioning them), lied to first responders about the health risks they faced at ground zero, and allowed an erosion of civil liberties. On the plus side, the TSA seems to be functioning fairly well so far (though apparently that could change).

UPDATE: For a poignant yet depressing reminder of how the world felt about the United States two years ago, visit the When Words Fail Us photo collection. (Via TBogg).

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Mike Allen: Noted in The Building?

Thursday’s Washington Post has an article, Bush Cites 9/11 On All Manner Of Questions, sure to upset Karl Rove. The punchline of the story is that, regardless of what the topic is, Bush will almost invariably make reference to 9/11:

…President Bush paused in his Labor Day remarks about jobs and told his audience of union members, “I want you to think back to that fateful day, September the 11th, and what happened afterwards …[snip]… In the past six weeks, Bush has referred to “9/11” or Sept. 11, 2001, in arguing for his energy policy and in response to questions about campaign fundraising, tax cuts, unemployment, the deficit, airport security, Afghanistan and the length, cost and death toll of the Iraq occupation.

I suppose the innnocent explanation, cited in the article, is that 9/11 is always on Bush’s mind. I’m even prepared to accept that as true, but that doesn’t make it appropriate–and probably makes it inapproptiate–to use the tragedy as a smokescreen whenever the topic turns to something Bush would rather not discuss. For example, here’s my favorite:

“Every day, I’m reminded about what 9/11 means to America,” Bush said when asked in July about the $170 million budget for his primary campaign, where he has no opponent. “We’re still threatened,” he said, explaining that he wants to “continue doing my job, and my job will be to work to make America more secure.”(*)

There’s a lot more, read the whole thing.


(*) Even I doubted that Bush would really answer a question about fundraising thusly, so I did some Googling and eventually found the transcript, from July 30th, 2003. In fairness to Bush, he did address the question; in fairness to the Post reporter, Bush immediately segued to 9/11 without ever mentioning his primary war chest or the $2000 contributors:

QUESTION: Mr. President, with no opponent, how can you spend $170 million or more on your primary campaign?

BUSH: Just watch. Keep going.

QUESTION: And with 15 fund-raisers scheduled for the summer months, do you worry about the perception that you’re unduly attentive to the interests of people who can afford to spend $2,000 to see you?

BUSH: I think American people, now that they’ve realized I’m going to seek re-election, expect me to seek re-election. They expect me to actually do what candidates do.

And so you’re right, I’ll be spending some time going out and asking the American people to support me.

But most of my time, as I say in my speeches — as I’m sure you’ve been bored to tears listening to — is that there’s a time for politics, and that’s going to be later on. I’ve got a lot to do and I will continue doing my job. And my job will be to work to make America more secure.

Steve asked the question about this al-Qaeda possible attack. Every day I am reminded that our nation is still vulnerable. Every day I’m reminded about what 9-11 means to America.

That’s a lesson, by the way, I’ll never forget, the lesson of 9-11, because, and I remember right after 9-11 saying that this will be a different kind of war, but it’s a war. And sometimes there’ll be action and sometimes there won’t, but we’re still threatened.

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Thou Shalt Not Make Taxes Less Regressive

Actually, that’s not one of the Ten Commandments, but based on the results of yesterday’s vote on Republican Governor Bob Riley’s tax package (67-33 against!), most Alabamans think it is. Riley cast his plan, which proposed to deal with the state’s $675 deficit by increasing taxes on the wealthier Alabamans, as the Christian thing to do. Two-thirds of the voters in Alabama were apparently unconvinced so now Riley has to find a way to cut $675 million from the state’s budget.


UPDATE: Where will the money come from and what will it mean for Alabama residents? No More Mister Nice Blog has the details. I agree with Kash’s prediction in the comments to this post: “[I’d] be surprised…if Alabamans don’t complain when their services (especially education) are slashed over the coming months.” But when they get upset, will they blame Riley or the Republicans who opposed the tax package?

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Crucial or Negligible?

Writing in Salon about the Ashcroft road show promoting the virtues of the PATRIOT Act, Michelle Goldberg makes a good point:

In the face of such opposition, Ashcroft has taken to the road to try to convince America of two somewhat contradictory propositions. On the one hand, he argues that without the PATRIOT Act, the government cannot protect Americans from terrorist atrocities. On the other, he insists that the PATRIOT Act contains only “modest, incremental changes in the law.” Apparently, the PATRIOT Act is both crucial and negligible.

Ashcroft’s tour is part of the same effort to improve the Act’s image as the website, which I blogged about here.


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The Spoils of War

The Texas Republicans, with the aid of the cowardly John Whitmire, have won the battle in Texas. Governor Perry has called a third special session and redistricting (to give Republicans 5-7 more seats in the US House) will soon be underway. The one bright spot is that redistricting may not go anywhere for a while, as Republicans are now fighting each other over how to redraw the districts.


P.S. Let’s root for the Democrats to gain narrow majorities in California, New York, and Illinois and then respond in kind. It’s not as far fetched as it sounds.

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