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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush Meltdown

Via Chris Bowers, I’m happy to report that the latest Gallup Poll shows George W. Bush reaching new lows in popularity, registering a 34/63 approval/disapproval rating, getting him seriously into the bad company of presidents in trouble, from (second-term) Harry Truman, to Richard Nixon, to Jimmy Carter and to his own old man. I’m not so old that I can remember Truman, though I am aware that his deep unpopularity after his upset 1948 election win fed a Republican congressional landslide in 1950, and then the Eisenhower landslide of 1952. But I do remember Nixon’s fall from grace very graphically (feeding the 1974 Democratic landslide and then the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976), and of course the free-fall Bush I went into thanks to his overt confusion and indifference over every aspect of domestic policy. Most of all I remember my fellow Georgian Carter (I was actually a Carter volunteer the first time he ran for governor, in 1966), whose well-earned post-presidential rehabilitation has obscured his own W.-like reputation in the late 1970s for total fecklessness. I will certainly never forget the day after the revelation of the Desert One disaster–the Iranian hostage effort that expired when U.S. helicopters collided en route to an aborted rescue. As it happens, I spoke that morning to my political mentor, a man who had worked for Carter in Atlanta, and who observed: “Well, Jimmy’s just established himself as the first president to screw up a one-car funeral.” George W. Bush has established an equal reputation for incompetence, and unlike Carter, has also richly earned a reputation for lying to the American people on a vast number of issues. He seems to be on a trajectory to combine the worst perceptions of Carter and Nixon: a president over his head, who can’t tell the truth to save his own political life.

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