Sunday :: Jun 15, 2003

Targeting Bush’s Job Performance Rather Than Bush Himself


by Steve

First, I hope that all of you had a good Fathers Day.

You might think that it is a dark time right now to be a Democrat. Just weeks ago, our media was telling us how hard it was going to be for the Democrats to topple George W. Bush, given his approval ratings and his likely 5-1 fundraising edge. And if they did challenge Bush, what would be the best strategy to follow?

After scanning the headlines over the weekend, I find myself a little more hopeful about bagging this guy’s ass next year than I have in the last several months. Yes, he will have more money than God to spend next year telling gullible voters how great he is. The only problem is that he will have no record of accomplishment to run on, and no amount of money will convince voters that nothing equals something.

First, what strategy to use? I have been arguing for months that the Democrats needed to go right after Bush and frankly call him a liar, and hammer this theme. That is why I applaud the efforts of Bob Graham and Howard Dean to a lesser extent to maintain the courage to call Bush’s credibility into question. It is also why I loathe seeing the so-called “A” List candidates shrivel from doing the same “in-your-face” mode of attack. There is nothing noble in seeing Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman refuse to say directly that Bush misled this country into a war that killed hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis. It is even worse that some in their campaigns are doing whispering campaigns against Graham to suggest that he is “out there” for going so hard and far against Bush on the WMD issue. And although I despise the lack of courage and conviction from these so-called first tier candidates on the issue, after looking at a couple of polls over the weekend, I can perhaps see a justification for this behavior and a campaign strategy out of it.

First off, how do you deal with poll numbers that indicate Bush is personally popular but has declining job approval ratings? Regardless of what many of us think about the lack of integrity and character of the man, George W. Bush has consistently had high personal approval ratings since he has been in office. People like him, and we must get over it. But that is different from what people think of his performance as president. Polls have shown consistently since even before the “victory lap” that his presidential approval ratings are coming down, perhaps soon back to their pre-war levels. This is significant, because it is a reflection of what people think of his actions, agenda, and future prospects as a president. As such, people have seen the tax cuts, the deficits, and the unmet needs and are responding with declining presidential approval ratings. The best example of this recently, in an inverse way, was Bill Clinton. People may not have liked him personally, and the personal approval ratings showed that. But Clinton was politically bulletproof because of his consistently solid presidential approval ratings, in other words, he was delivering what voters wanted, and there was nothing the GOP could do to topple him.

Bush on the other hand, is personally popular, and it may be fruitless for the leading first-tier candidates to mount frontal assaults on Bush personally, as I myself have been clamoring for over the last several months. It may be better for the currently second-tier candidates like Dean and Graham to take this line of attack themselves. They would be rallying the base and doing the dirty work for the party and themselves, seeing if they can lift their own fortunes while allowing the first-tier candidates to stay above the attacks and focus on showing voters why George Bush’s agenda and actions are contrary to their interests. By focusing on Bush’s presidential performance and its shortcomings, and showing voters a positive vision of meeting our country’s needs in a post 9/11 world, it gives Lieberman, Gephardt, and Kerry a chance to demonstrate to voters that they are legitimate presidential contenders. And if they cannot seize that opportunity while Graham and Dean are rallying the base and doing the dirty work, then Dean and Graham deserve the spotlight and the others deserve the dust bin. The best test case of how this may work is to see how Dean’s round of TV commercials in Iowa work on his numbers there and nationally, and to see if Graham’s continued pounding of Bush’s lack of integrity begins to take its toll. If there are many more revelations about Bush’s frantic grasping for any WMD straw that turn out to be one more baseless claim, like the latest fiasco about the WMD trailers, then Dean and Graham may not need much more help.

Second, despite claims from the Bush-friendly members of the business journalistic community, the economy is not going to get significantly better between now and next November. There will be no economic rescue for Bush. The just-released University of Michigan survey on Friday shows that consumers are retrenching due to concerns about job losses. The Bush tax package we now find out was not a stimulus package by design. Energy prices are going back up. And there is already talk on Wall Street that the recent boom in tech stocks may be a bubble, and that many stocks are still overvalued as compared to earnings. And this is at the front end of a purported recovery, when the Administration has shot whatever bullets it had left to jumpstart the economy, and the Fed is having no effect. Since this Administration has no answers within its dogma for this jobless “recovery”, Mr. Bush will not be rescued by a recovery. And as a result, the presidential approval numbers will keep coming down.

So despair not. Give your support to Howard Dean and Bob Graham’s efforts and guts to do the dirty work. And watch to see if any of the tier one candidates get a clue and look and sound presidential. While we watch the Bush Administration slither towards a WMD meltdown, it will be an interesting summer.

Steve :: 10:20 PM :: Comments (22) :: Digg It!