Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Poll Plummets

And the hits just keep on comin’:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the number of casualties in Iraq is unacceptable, while two-thirds say the U.S. military there is bogged down and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting — in all three cases matching or exceeding the highest levels of pessimism yet recorded. More than four in 10 believe the U.S. presence in Iraq is becoming analogous to the experience in Vietnam.

Perhaps most ominous for President Bush, 52 percent said war in Iraq has not contributed to the long-term security of the United States, while 47 percent said it has. It was the first time a majority of Americans disagreed with the central notion Bush has offered to build support for war: that the fight there will make Americans safer from terrorists at home. In late 2003, 62 percent thought the Iraq war aided U.S. security, and three months ago 52 percent thought so.

Overall, more than half — 52 percent — disapprove of how Bush is handling his job, the highest of his presidency. A somewhat larger majority — 56 percent — disapproved of Republicans in Congress, and an identical proportion disapproved of Democrats.

There were signs, however, that Bush and Republicans in Congress were receiving more of the blame for the recent standoffs over such issues as Bush’s judicial nominees and Social Security. Six in 10 respondents said Bush and GOP leaders are not making good progress on the nation’s problems; of those, 67 percent blamed the president and Republicans while 13 percent blamed congressional Democrats. For the first time, a majority, 55 percent, also said Bush has done more to divide the country than to unite it.

At some point in every presidency there comes this disconnection with reality. The president, either by design or sheer isolation, loses contact with the ability to see himself, his administration, and the world objectively — in the third person, if you will. No matter what the facts are or what the polls say, they refuse to believe the bad news and only look for the silver linings. This has been going on for generations: Lyndon Johnson had to win in Vietnam at all costs. Richard Nixon didn’t resign because he realized he had lied and committed felonies in the Watergate scandal; he was confronted by his fellow Republicans like Barry Goldwater who told him they wouldn’t support him against impeachment. Ronald Reagan had no clue as to what was really going on five blocks from the White House, and even Bill Clinton didn’t really believe the Republicans were that intent on getting him out of office. When you look at Bush, you can tell just by the look on his face that he’s getting his news from Karl Rove and Nick at Nite. That’s why polls like this will have no effect on him or the Republicans in Congress. They probably see that as a distraction from their mission, and in truth it’s not a good idea to be slaves to opinion — after all, a recent poll found that most Americans in a blind test would repeal the First Amendment. But to blunder on with nothing but a smile and an intense grip on the belief that you are right and everyone else is wrong is the mentality that led to things like the fall of Saigon and forced retirement at San Clemente.

It does, however, make things pretty clear to the Democrats — if they can get their shit together — on what to run on in the next campaign or two.