Skip to comments.Bush's White Elephant (Are Bush's High Approval Ratings Useless?)
Posted on 08/18/2002 8:25:26 PM PDT by republicman
Bush's White Elephant
President Bushs 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. Bushs approval ratingswhich jumped from 57 percent to 90 percentwould 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 Presidents 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 McCains 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 hasnt. The Senate has stalled for more than eight months on Trade Promotion Authority and dragged its feet on the Presidents 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 wouldnt lose liberal support; at that time liberals werent 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.
Bushs 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.
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We had the Senate then, and we don't now.
Personally, I think it really is that simple. Jeffords changed the balance of power.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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