Monday | July 22, 2002
Malaise, thy name is Bush
The press has replaced fawning 'War on Terror' stories with 'Bush's War on the Economy' stories. For example:
President Bush, who marked his 18th month in office this weekend, is off to the worst start of any president in the last 75 years.Honestly, I am tired of writing about the economy. There's a desire to gloat at Bush's ineptness, to laugh at his self-induced predicament, and to gleefully anticipate the political bounty his actions will reap for Dems. Yet, it's hard to be happy when real people are losing their jobs, their retirement funds, and their savings.
And this is what's interesting about shifting public sentiment. Despite all the negative news, the corporate scandals, Harken, and Halliburton, the president's approval numbers are still diminishing at a slow, steady pace (now in the mid-60s). There is no dramatic outbreak of anger. No sudden 10-15 point drops. It's all been a steady drip, drip, drip.
Which should worry Bush's political advisors even more.
A sudden drop in Bush's approval ratings would indicate an outburst of anger -- an emotional reaction to the steady stream of negative news. But as all emotional reactions, are wont to do, they would fade. A sudden drop one week could be followed by an equally dramatic rise the next.
But the slow erosion marks a different dynamic. People are making deliberate, informed decisions on their views. They want to like the president, and they approve of the way he handled 9-11. But little by little, they are submitting to the inevitable fact that the president is incapable of stemming the nation's economic problems. And just as people are reluctantly abandoning the president, they will be just as slow to embrace him again.
No one expects Bush to fix the market. No one expected Bush to fix the collapsed twin towers, either. But just as Bush reassured the nation following 9-11 and acted decisively, they expect similar assurances anew.
Yet the president is politically paralyzed, boxed into a myriad of Catch-22s. His credibility is tarnished from his own association with Harken. Cheney is hanging out with Ashcroft in their joint "undisclosed location". And Paul "People care about what I do?" O'Neil loses credibility by the minute.
Bold action in this instance, a la 9-11, would dictate tough choices -- cancelling phased-in tax cuts, busting the budget deficit with stimulative spending, advocating true corporate reform. But, alas, while Bush had no problem boldly sending Americans to possible death in Afghanistan, he has no intention of laying down his political life for the good of this country. Nor even enduring a bump or bruise.
Cancelling future tax cuts would enrage his party's tax hawks. Busting the deficit would enrage the GOP and Dem fiscal hawks. True corporate reform would enrage the GOP's primary donor base. So he is reduced to lame (and mocked) attempts to talk up the economy, afraid of offending the smallest constituency.
Bush's impotence, especially contrasted with 9-11, is dramatically obvious to everyone. His ability to control the national debate has completely abandoned him. Last week, the nightly news led with stock market news, even as the Lindh plea was announced. Bush's speeches on Homeland Security have been all but ignored, what with WorldCom dominating center stage. Bush has been a one-trick pony, and the terror schtick is wearing thin.
Drip, drip, drip.Posted July 22, 2002 10:47 PM | Comments (4)