Have Bush And The GOP Cratered Over Iraq?
On the eve of his 2007 State of the Union message tomorrow night, President Bush is staring into canyons of rejection both here at home and in the Middle East, where Sunni insurgents today unleashed another wave of deadly bombings against Shiites, and our allies feel the Bush Administration has betrayed them. And as if on cue before the SOTU, the White House makes sure ABC News finds out about plans that Al Qaeda in Iraq had for staging terror attacks inside America six months ago. Yet Bush is sending the bulk of his surge not against Al Qaeda in the al-Anbar province, but rather against a penned up Mahdi Army in Baghdad.
Here at home, a new poll show the public has lost confidence in Bush’s leadership, especially with regards to Iraq, signaling that his surge decision has cost him significantly. As Paradox noted below, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that Bush’s approval rating has slid to 33%, the lowest in that poll.
President Bush will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday at the weakest point of his presidency, facing deep public dissatisfaction over his Iraq war policies and eroding confidence in his leadership, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Bush's overall approval rating in the new poll is 33 percent, matching the lowest it has been in Post-ABC polls since he took office in 2001. Sixty-five percent say they disapprove. Equally telling is the finding that 51 percent of Americans now strongly disapprove of his performance in office, the worst rating of his presidency. Just 17 percent strongly approve of the way he is handling his job.
But the poll shows that Bush’s surge has crippled him and given the Congressional Democrats the whip hand on the issue, if they decide to seize it.
With a major confrontation between Congress and the president brewing over Iraq, Americans overwhelmingly oppose Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to the conflict. By wide margins, they prefer that congressional Democrats, who now hold majorities in both chambers, rather than the president, take the lead in setting the direction for the country.
Iraq dominates the national agenda, with 48 percent of Americans calling the war the single most important issue they want Bush and the Congress to deal with this year. No other issue rises out of single digits. The poll also found that the public trusts congressional Democrats over Bush to deal with the conflict by a margin of 60 percent to 33 percent.
The president will use his speech to try to rally public opinion behind the troop deployment plan, but during the past 10 days he has made no headway in changing public opinion. The Post-ABC poll shows that 65 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq; it was 61 percent immediately after the president unveiled the plan on Jan. 10 in a nationally televised address.
But the poll really shows that the bottom has dropped out of the Bush presidency:
Only two presidents have had lower approval ratings on the eve of a State of the Union speech. Richard Nixon was at 26 percent in 1974, seven months before he resigned in disgrace because of the Watergate scandal. Harry S. Truman was at 23 percent in January 1952, driven down by public disapproval of the Korean conflict and his firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Just 29 percent approve of Bush's handling of the Iraq war, which is only one percentage point off his career low recorded a month ago, and 70 percent disapprove. Similarly, Bush's approval rating on handling terrorism is at a near-low, with just 46 percent giving him positive marks and 52 percent negative.
Additional signs of Bush's weakened position come in responses to questions about his personal and leadership attributes. Forty percent describe Bush as honest and trustworthy, equaling the low point of his presidency. Barely a third think he understands the problems of people like themselves.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush generally received strongly positive marks on leadership and his ability to handle a crisis. But Hurricane Katrina and the botched federal response, on top of dissatisfaction over Iraq, badly damaged his image on both fronts, and the new poll finds him at another new low on those attributes.
Just 42 percent say he can be trusted in a crisis, with 56 percent saying he cannot -- the first time a majority has given him a negative rating on a crucial element of presidential leadership. Only 45 percent call him a strong leader, which is also the lowest mark of his presidency. His previous low, 47 percent, came two months after Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
The rest of the piece indicates that Iraq and Bush’s handling of it has dragged his presidency into the swamp.
Just for good measure, according to this poll the public now favors both Hillary and Barack Obama over John McCain.
The Democratic congress is in position to put the Bush foreign policy into receivership through a bipartisan alternative and increased oversight through numerous hearings. As for tomorrow night, when Bush trots out the newest bogeyman, shouldn't the Democrats just sit on their hands?