Deadly Day In Iraq: More Trouble For Bush
There is no way that George W. Bush can “unfilter” this and spread a positive bit of propaganda directly to the sheep that is the American electorate when you no longer control the skies of your occupied territory. An American Chinook helicopter was shot down early this morning, killing 15 US soldiers, and injuring at least 21 more. And one and possibly five more soldiers were killed in separate attacks overnight as well, making this the deadliest day of the war. And at a time when the Iraqi occupation has led to Islamic calls for a Jihad to kick the Americans out of Iraq, the Administration is left with trying to get as many Iraqi police and troops trained and deployed as quickly as possible.
The bad developments in Iraq come at a time when Bush is facing political trouble here at home. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that even with a 56 percent approval rating, Bush is in trouble with even his supporters from the 2000 election over Iraq and the economy, and has now fully lost his post-9/11 bounce.
The number of Americans who say bring the troops home has grown. In July, 72 percent said they preferred to keep U.S. forces there until order is restored, with 26 percent saying it was time to withdraw. In the new Post-ABC News poll, 58 percent said the United States should stay the course, while 38 percent said it was time to get out.
Today, 87 percent say they fear the United States will get bogged down in Iraq, and 62 percent said the nation has suffered an unacceptable level of casualties there. At the time Baghdad fell in April, 28 percent said combat deaths had reached an unacceptable level.
Frustration over Iraq runs deep, cutting across party lines. Many of the people interviewed during the past two weeks said the near-daily reports of U.S. combat casualties and terrorist attacks have caused them to question the president's policy, including many who believe it was right to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
And this was before today’s tragic news.
Also, according to the poll, Bush is no longer escaping blame on the economy, from even those who voted for him in 2000. The Post seems to be puzzled a little why voters are concerned given Thursday’s now-questionable 7.2 % GDP growth figure, but the reality is that as reported Friday consumer spending is trending downward again, and jobs are still the only measure of success that voters understand.
Administration officials hope the latest economic numbers signal that kind of healthy trend, but the Post-ABC poll, completed just before the announcement that the July-September quarter produced the fastest growth in 19 years, showed continuing public anxiety about jobs and incomes. The poll found 53 percent to 45 percent disapproval of Bush's handling of the economy -- exactly the reverse of where he stood last April, the last time his rating was positive.
At the end of that stunning 7.2 percent third quarter economic burst, those polled rated the economy negatively by a 2-to-1 margin. As many thought it was getting worse as improving. Only 9 percent said they thought most Americans were better off than they were the day Bush took office; 49 percent said the reverse.
The explanation for the gap between economic numbers and public perception centers on the loss of jobs -- a topic much on the minds of voters everywhere from tourist-oriented Orlando to the suburbs of Los Angeles County.
Economic concerns spill over onto related issues -- the rising cost of health insurance, the budget cuts that voters say have hurt schools, and the concerns some express about record federal deficits and their implications for Social Security's future.
The tax cuts that Bush says have powered a strong economic recovery are rarely mentioned by voters -- and easily dismissed when interviewers raise them as a topic. Nadine Polk, a Wheat Ridge, Colo., office worker who has switched from considering herself a Bush supporter because of Iraq, said, "It's hard to see what the tax cuts have done for me. We did get that check [the expanded child tax credit], but it didn't even pay for the increase in our property tax. . . . I don't see any sign that they helped the job situation."
Such comments help explain why the poll found 53 percent disapproval of Bush's record on taxes and 41 percent approval -- the lowest rating on that question of his presidency.
Yes, the poll story finds that voters think the Democrats are so far invisible as an alternative, but that is partly a result of still having too many candidates in the field. But what is interesting is that the recent mood of the voters makes even Republicans long for the days of Bill Clinton:
These widespread economic concerns have fueled support for at least one Democrat -- Bill Clinton.
Heather Rockwell, an Albuquerque Republican mother of two and casino supervisor, is critical of Bush, her choice in 2000, because "we need to be spending more money here, not in a country [Iraq] where we train them and educate them and then they end up killing us."
She knows nothing about the Democrats running, but says she would consider voting for one of them, because the economy seemed so much better when Democrats were last in power. "I think Clinton was a much better president," she said. "I just think he handled things in a better manner."
When they look at the nine candidates debating one another, many throw up their hands in despair. Tim Canty, who lives in the Detroit suburbs, has little use for Bush, but he despairs at the state of the Democratic Party. "They do not have an effective central leader with an effective central message," he said. "That is the weakness of the Democratic Party. They don't have a Clinton."
Bill Barnes, a Democratic businessman, was having a hamburger at a mall in Torrance, Calif. By the time the California primary is over in early March, Democrats may well have anointed a party leader. For now, Barnes is one of many Democrats with a bad case of Clinton nostalgia. "Even with the womanizing issue," he said, "I don't expect to see another president like Clinton in my lifetime. George Bush just followed a very good president."
The key point for the top five or six Democrats now is to develop the “effective central message” that will gain them the consideration needed from the voters for these voters to consider dumping the incumbent. It is no longer enough to run on anger, or even an anti-war message. What is your vision and central message? What simple plan do you offer for the future, and why is it better than what we have now? If any of these top six cannot explain that to voters between now and New Hampshire, then they will not win in November. And they will not win while they embroil themselves in silly arguments about Confederate flags and pick up trucks either. Did you hear than John Kerry and Dick Gephardt?