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.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
I’m certainly old enough to remember lots of these pre-election “agenda” documents, and couldn’t help but mock the latest one at New York:
In Thomas Pynchon’s 1965 cult novel The Crying of Lot 49, a character who has taken too much LSD decides that if everyone on earth repeats the marketing phrase “rich, chocolatey goodness,” it will represent the voice of God. With or without drugs, a lot of people in politics have a similar delusion that getting candidates to make the same noises like chirping cicadas will produce electoral victories. It’s a particularly strong belief among congressional Republicans, who share the dubious conviction that Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” is what flipped control of Congress in 1994.
With the assistance of Gingrich and former Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, the House Republican Conference has released a new “agenda” document, entitled “Commitment to America.” The document, clearly designed for online consumption, has lots of bells and whistles and factoids about the hellish reign of Joe Biden and his “Democrat” Party. What it doesn’t have is a whole lot of specificity, unlike the unfortunate “agenda” that Republican Senate Campaign Committee chairman Rick Scott released earlier this year to the near-universal horror of his colleagues, who don’t want to be identified with the proposed sunsetting of Social Security and Medicare.
The relatively anodyne character of Kevin McCarthy’s pet project doesn’t mean it is entirely useless. Candidates mouthing the approved pieties will presumably not be expressing their pithy views on Jewish space lasers or repeating QAnon slogans.
Still, it’s hard to take seriously an agenda for the nation that does not mention climate change, Russia, or extremist threats to democracy — or one that suggests the sole cure for inflation is to cut “wasteful government spending” without explaining what that means (in the indictment of Democrats that accompanies the agenda, there is much criticism of direct stimulus payments, which Donald Trump preferred to virtually every other form of government spending).
Most interesting was how House Republicans handled a red-hot issue they dare not ignore completely, given the obsession it commands among a very big chunk of the GOP party base: abortion. You have to look pretty hard to find it, nestled as it is under the unlikely heading of “A Government That’s Accountable,” and the downright misleading subheading of “a plan to defend America’s rights under the Constitution.” And it simply says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” So they checked off a box for anti-abortion activists in the manner least likely to draw curious or unfriendly attention to the extreme abortion views so many of them have expressed, which don’t poll well. Perhaps voters will be too mesmerized by the overall party message to notice. Repeat after me: rich, chocolatey goodness.