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Bush's White Elephant (Are Bush's High Approval Ratings Useless?)
American Enterpsrise Institute ^ | Septemnber 2002 issues | Grover Norquist

Posted on 08/18/2002 8:25:26 PM PDT by republicman

Bush's White Elephant

President Bush’s approval rating has remained above 70 percent for ten months. Far from being an asset, these approval ratings are a liability that has hurt his agenda.

Immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Democrats feared and Republicans hoped that Mr. Bush’s approval ratings—which jumped from 57 percent to 90 percent—would create political capital that would help Bush advance his legislative agenda and elect more Republicans.

Both Republican hopes and Democratic fears went unfulfilled. On November 6, only 55 days after September 11, the GOP lost control of the governors’ mansions in Virginia and New Jersey. President Bush made no progress on legislative priorities such as reforming Mexican immigration and giving Americans the option of investing part of their Social Security taxes. A dozen Congressional leadership staff members have told me that the President’s high approval ratings have not helped him pass any important bills.

Since September 11, George W. Bush has agreed to federalize tens of thousands of airport screeners, approved Senator John McCain’s campaign reform legislation, and signed the most expensive farm bill in U.S. history. Why?

Back when the President had an approval rating below 60 percent, he rammed through a $1.3 trillion tax cut, made the Senate approve John Ashcroft as attorney general, pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Treaty, and gave notice that the U.S. would leave the ABM treaty in order to build a missile defense system. Why was President Bush more successful in pushing his agenda and standing up to his critics when his approval rating was in the 50s than when it was in the 80s?

Some members of Congress argue that the President has failed to “spend” his political capital. But this misses the point that the difference between 55 percent and 75 percent approval is not political capital that can be spent. President Bush has demanded that the Senate approve more of his nominated judges. It hasn’t. The Senate has stalled for more than eight months on Trade Promotion Authority and dragged its feet on the President’s defense bill.

In old Siam, now Thailand, a rare white elephant was a liability because, while it was a great honor to receive one as a gift from the king, it could not be put to work like a regular elephant.

So too, the inflated personal approval ratings have actually hurt the Bush administration. Not all Americans among the 75 percent who approve of Bush as President now plan to vote for him or his party this November or in 2004. But Bush really is a strong candidate: He will win the next election in a landslide with 55 to 50 percent of the vote, after most Americans return to their partisan homes.

Many Americans endorse his handling of the war on terrorism, but plan to give their votes to the Democrats because they disagree with him on abortion, government spending, or the environment.

In the wake of the attacks, President Bush did not campaign for the GOP candidates in Virginia and New Jersey. To do so would have brought him down from the Mount Olympus of consensus politics to the daily partisan bickering that would drive down his approval ratings. A veto of federal control of airport screeners would have led some people to tell the pollsters they no longer approve of the President.

Back in the spring of 2001, President Bush could hit cherished Democratic Party interests hard without dipping in the polls because he wouldn’t lose liberal support; at that time liberals weren’t telling pollsters they supported him. Post 9/11 any ideological tussle results in a drop in recorded support toward normal levels. No adviser wants to be in the room when the President drops from 75 percent to 65 percent in one week.

Bush’s “political capital” cannot be spent. It will evaporate. Like a white elephant, the inflated Presidential approval ratings are a wonderful honor, a thing of beauty, but without practical value. They are a sterile and expensive liability that cannot even be given away.

Page image of this article

September 2002

TOPICS: Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: approvalratings; bush; whiteelephant
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I think this guy is dead on. For all the liberalism enacted, for all the "new tone" stuff, for all the sky high approval ratings there still is no evidence that in the elections just 3 months away the republicans will gain anything for it.
1 posted on 08/18/2002 8:25:26 PM PDT by republicman
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To: republicman
Bush and the pubbies DIDN'T CAPITALIZE ON his high approval numbers! SO SAD :( I guess Republicans don't know how to play the numbers game!
2 posted on 08/18/2002 8:29:10 PM PDT by RoseofTexas
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To: republicman
Sidebar: What's the origin of the "white elephant" metaphor?
3 posted on 08/18/2002 8:34:28 PM PDT by ConsistentLibertarian
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To: republicman; RoseofTexas
This article makes "approval rating" some kind of power that can be wielded while overlooking a change that really explains why tax cuts were passed then and judges aren't approved now.

We had the Senate then, and we don't now.

Personally, I think it really is that simple. Jeffords changed the balance of power.

4 posted on 08/18/2002 8:35:10 PM PDT by xzins
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To: republicman
For all the liberalism enacted, for all the "new tone" stuff, for all the sky high approval ratings there still is no evidence that in the elections just 3 months away the republicans will gain anything for it.

And when the GOP doesn't do as well as some people are touting, they'll blame conservatives for it and use it as an excuse for the GOP to move even further left.

5 posted on 08/18/2002 8:37:54 PM PDT by Mulder
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To: Mulder
You have freepmail! :-)
6 posted on 08/18/2002 8:40:05 PM PDT by Scully
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To: republicman
Nothing satisfies the socialists, does it? They're banging their heads against the walls trying to find something to say against him. The best they can come up with is that he has high poll ratings. Pathetic!
7 posted on 08/18/2002 8:46:07 PM PDT by kitkat
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To: ConsistentLibertarian
"What's the origin of the "white elephant" metaphor?"

Elephants can be born with albinism, same as humans. Back in the old days in Siam, such rare elephants were considered sacred and automatically became the property of the king. Some enterprising King of Siam came up with the idea of giving his albino elephants away to members of his court he wanted to punish. Being sacred animals, they could not be killed or put to work; being elephants, they ate tons of food, produced tons of, um, need for upkeep, and kept on doing both for decade after decade. Being "given" a white elephant turned rich nobles into poor ones, and poor ones into peasants.

8 posted on 08/18/2002 8:48:11 PM PDT by Fabozz
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To: republicman
Bush chained by his success? I suppose it's a valid theory. I was just thinking his failures were due to a total misunderstanding of politics, an aberration in his moral compass, or a lack of conservative convictions. I'm not the Beltway cognoscente that Grover Norquist is, but applying Occam's Razor, I'd be inclined to support my thesis above his.
9 posted on 08/18/2002 8:50:04 PM PDT by IronJack
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To: republicman
So now Grover Norquist has joined the ranks of those choosing to underestimate President Bush. Fine. What Norquist seems to overlook, is the level of serious political gridlock that exists today. Its truly a balancing act for Bush and Company.

After losing control of the Senate, its been difficult for Republicans to get the President's agenda back on track. But one thing is certain, while the intensity of the war on terrorism has abated, it still remains the President's #1 long term priority.

Short term, holding onto the House and retaking the Senate should be a priority for all conservative Republican's.

10 posted on 08/18/2002 8:53:25 PM PDT by Reagan Man
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To: republicman
Are Bush's High Approval Ratings Useless?)

I didn't believe Clinton's high approval ratings back then and I have my doubts now about Bush's high approval ratings.

I believe Bush is being pushed left by these false high ratings. When 2004 comes, enough of Bush's right base will be turned off and not vote for Bush. Meanwhile, many of the sheeple who now support Bush will be lead away from Bush by an instantaneous all out propaganda attack on Bush.

These high approval ratings are not useless. Instead they are being used like a trap! It's Hillary in 2004.

11 posted on 08/18/2002 8:58:56 PM PDT by FreeReign
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To: Fabozz
That's interesting. Thank you.
12 posted on 08/18/2002 9:01:57 PM PDT by ConsistentLibertarian
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To: FreeReign
When 2004 comes, enough of Bush's right base will be turned off and not vote for Bush.

Absolutely. Unless he starts governing somewhere to the right of his predecessor, George W. isn't getting my vote next time around. Why doesn't he just do us all a favor and run as an Independent in 2004 so a real conservative can have the opportunity to get in the White House?

13 posted on 08/18/2002 9:23:26 PM PDT by kwyjibo
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To: republicman
This may be wishful thinking. The time to influence the vote is not now. Gore played his DUI card Friday before the election. I am sure that GW will wait until the right moment to spend his Approval. Polls have consistantly been saying that the Democrats are not hurting Bush with their constant attacks and he has not attacked back yet.

If he were to attack at just the right time he could really hurt the Democrats. Meanwhile he is letting them hurt themselves. I think they are making a major mistake with their 9/10 Celebration trying to use 9/11 for political purposes. I believe Bush will point this out.

14 posted on 08/18/2002 9:24:00 PM PDT by ImphClinton
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To: xzins
Bush did not use the bully pulpit. He let dashole & gephardt play their little games and said nothing. He let the dems hold up his judicial appointments and said nothing.

He should have let the public know the dems are obstructionists.

Either republicrats do not know how to play the political game or they are just clones of the dems. I'm fed up with both parties. Neither of them have any honorable people within their ranks. They swore to uphold the Constitution and have continously violated their oath.
15 posted on 08/18/2002 9:42:04 PM PDT by poet
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To: republicman
Anyone whose ever run for office or worked on successful campaigns as I have back here in pa will tell you one thing. Principles are nice but you gotta win. Bush simply can't will people to get elected with his personal job approval, what he can do is aquire money for the candidates running to better their chances and after raising 110 million I'd say hes doing pretty well at that. Their name is on the ballot George's isn't. George Bush has done one thing this election season many before him couldn't do he's made it so the mid-terms aren't a referendom on his presidency the way 94 was for Clinton or 86 was for Reagan (when he lost the senate over the farm bill veto). George isn't perfect noone is but the guy has positioned this years races on local issues and not on national ones and that is very very smart for a guy whose not supposed to be able to tie his shoes(well he shouldn't be able to he wears boots).
16 posted on 08/18/2002 9:55:22 PM PDT by Leclair10
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To: FreeReign; republicman; Fabozz; ConsistentLibertarian; kwyjibo; ImphClinton; poet; xzins; ...
The following is a report that appeared in the Fox Channel (July 25th 2002) and it was by Veronique de Rugy.

It shows how Prez. Clinton was, by definition, more 'conservative' than GW. I will let you guys make your own conclusions for yourselves. The article was as follows:

President Bush may be repeating the sins of his father. Although elected on a Reaganesque, tax-cutting platform, the White House has veered to the left.

President Bush has signed a bill to regulate political speech, issued protectionist taxes on imported steel and lumber, backed big-spending education and farm bills, and endorsed massive new entitlements for mental health care and prescription drugs. When the numbers are added up, in fact, it looks like President Bush is less conservative than President Clinton.

It makes little sense to discourage one's core supporters prior to a mid-term election. Yet that is the result when a Republican president expands government, which Bush is doing. Also, academic research on voting patterns shows that a president is most likely to get re-elected if voters are enjoying an increase in disposable income. Yet making government bigger is not a recipe for economic growth. After all, there is a reason why Hong Kong grows so fast and France is an economic basket case. But you can't tell that to the Bush administration.

Administration officials privately admit that much of the legislation moving through Congress represents bad public policy. Yet they argue either that everything must take a back seat to the war on terror (much as the first Bush administration treated the war against Iraq) or that compromises are necessary to neutralize issues such as education. But motives and rationalizations do not repeal the laws of economics.

In less than two years, President Bush has presided over more government expansion than took place during eight years of Bill Clinton. For instance:

— The education bill expands federal involvement in education. The administration originally argued that the new spending was a necessary price to get vouchers and other reforms. Yet the final bill boosted spending and was stripped of almost all reform initiatives. And there is every reason to believe that this new spending will be counter-productive, like most other federal money spent on education in the past 40 years. Children and taxpayers are the big losers.

— The farm bill is best characterized as a bipartisan orgy of special interest politics. Making a mockery of the Freedom to Farm Act, the new legislation boosts farm spending to record levels. Old subsidies have been increased and new subsidies created. Perhaps worst of all, the administration no longer has the moral credibility to pressure the European Union to reform its socialized agricultural policies. Taxpayers and consumers are the big losers.

— The protectionist decisions on steel and lumber imports make free traders wish Bill Clinton were still president. These restrictions on world commerce have undermined the productivity of U.S. manufacturers by boosting input prices and creating massive ill will in the international community. American products already have been targeted for reciprocal treatment. Consumers and manufacturers are the big losers.

— The campaign finance law is an effort to protect the interests of incumbent politicians by limiting free speech rights during elections. The administration openly acknowledged that the legislation is unconstitutional, yet was unwilling to make a principled argument for the Bill of Rights and fair elections. Voters and the Constitution are the big losers.

— New health care entitlements are akin to throwing gasoline on a fire. Medicare and Medicaid already are consuming enormous resources, and the burden of these programs will become even larger when the baby boom generation retires. Adding a new prescription drug benefit will probably boost spending by $1 trillion over 10 years. A mandate for mental health coverage will drive up medical costs, making insurance too expensive for many more families.

Those policy decisions make government bigger and more expensive. They also slow the economy and hurt financial markets — read the headlines lately? For all his flaws, President Clinton's major policy mistake was the 1993 tax increase. Other changes, such as the welfare reform bill, NAFTA, GATT, farm deregulation, telecommunications deregulation and financial services deregulation, moved policy in a market-oriented direction.

Perhaps most importantly, there was a substantial reduction in federal spending as a share of gross domestic product during the Clinton years. Using the growth of domestic spending as a benchmark, Clinton was the second most conservative president of the post-World War II era, trailing only Ronald Reagan.

To be sure, much of the credit for Clinton's good policy probably belongs to the Republican Congress, but that is not an excuse for bad policy today. And on one positive note, President Bush has "promised" to fight for partial privatization of Social Security. Yet, so far, President Bush has not vetoed a single piece of legislation. Needless to say, this means it will be rather difficult to blame "big-spending" Democrats if the economy continues to sputter.

Veronique de Rugy is a fiscal policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

17 posted on 08/19/2002 1:09:04 AM PDT by spetznaz
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To: republicman
Throughout history "leaders" have "led" without consideration to poll numbers or popularity. Leadership isn't a popularity contest, it is doing what in your mind and heart you know to be correct even when sometimes it fails.

A leader with the courage of his convictions will always be respected, admired and followed. Bush has none of these qualities. His ratings are a soft underbelly of fair weather admirers who will dissapear on a stormy day.

He will lose them because he doesn't have the "b*lls" to do what is right. He's too concerned with his popularity rather than his convictions.

18 posted on 08/19/2002 1:17:12 AM PDT by Cacique
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To: republicman
I think Grover has eaten a few too many mushrooms. High personal approval ratings cannot do anything when the GOP in the Senate is as spineless as jellyfish; when the GOP in the House is shell-shocked (still) from 1996; and when the attack media distorts every initiative Bush puts forward.

Far from a "White Elephant," Bush's approval ratings remind me of one of those magical spells in the video games that protect ONLY the wearer. The other guys STILL have to go out and get their OWN protection.

Meanwhile, Bush has used his numbers quite effectively for the main thing, which is keeping the country (all but the media and the attack Dems) focused on the "War on Terror." Given that there have been neither new attacks on the U.S. mainland, nor SIGNIFICANT breakthroughs in Afghanistan, I think this is remarkable. Bush warned us we were in for the long haul, and I'm somewhat surprised that the fickle public has remained as loyal and focused on this as it has. THIS IS BUSH'S "USE" OF HIS POPULARITY: DOING WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE. Republicans need to campaign for themselves. As Simon showed in CA, just being on the "right" side of issues doesn't make it, either, unless you are a good, effective campaigner.

Time for Grover and others to quit blaming Bush and start electing conservatives to help him.

19 posted on 08/19/2002 5:17:29 AM PDT by LS
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To: Fabozz
See, that is the weakness of non-capitalist countries. A capitalist "noble" would put the elephant in a zoo, and charge admission. It solves all: the elephant doesn't work, but still pays for himself.
20 posted on 08/19/2002 5:18:45 AM PDT by LS
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