With 3 Million U.S. Jobs Lost, President's Gig at Stake
By Steve Neal
The Chicago Sun-Times
Friday 10 October 2003
Another one-term presidency? As President Bush opens his 2004 re-election bid, he is looking increasingly vulnerable.
The voter discontent that toppled California Gov. Gray Davis in Tuesday's recall election isn't good news for the White House. Three sitting presidents have been voted out of office since 1976. Bush is at risk.
His approval rating has plunged to 49 percent, according to the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. That's a 39 point drop from his highest approval rating after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
In a half-dozen recent polls, the American public is evenly divided about Bush's job performance. His job-approval rating is comparable to that of Jimmy Carter in December 1979 and George H.W. Bush in December 1991. Neither of them won back the public's confidence, and both were defeated for re-election.
According to the Time/CNN poll, 39 percent of the electorate views Bush as an "average" president, while 28 percent views him as good, 23 percent as poor, and 9 percent as ''one of our greatest" presidents.
If Bush isn't regarded as a political heavyweight, he is viewed as honest. More than half of the poll's respondents said that Bush is trustworthy.
Only 38 percent of the voting public thinks that the nation is headed in the right direction, while 50 percent said that "things are off on the wrong track," according to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. The CNN/USA Today poll, which was conducted by the Gallup Organization, reported that 58 percent of voters are unhappy "with the way things are going in the United States at this time."
His chief problem is the faltering economy. Since Bush took office, 3 million Americans have been thrown out of work. He is the first president since Herbert Hoover to have a net job loss on his watch. More than 2.4 million of these lost jobs were in manufacturing. Many of these jobs have gone overseas to cheaper labor markets. Under Bush, the nation's trade deficit is headed for a record $488.5 billion.
Only 40 percent of voters have confidence in Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the economy, while 56 percent are uneasy, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll.
This same survey indicated that 60 percent of voters believe that Bush's economic policies favor the rich, while only 10 percent said they favored the middle class.
It is projected that his tax cut will cost the treasury $600 billion over the next decade. According to the Urban Institute, 42 percent of this money will go to the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers.
While cutting taxes for the rich, Bush has created the biggest deficit in American history, a projected $380 billion federal deficit for this fiscal year. When Bush took office, he inherited a surplus from the Clinton administration.
Bush is also in trouble because of his foreign policy. His "axis of evil" comment and unilateralist approach are controversial. Only 45 percent of the public has confidence in his ability to deal with an international crisis, while 50 percent are uneasy, according to the CBS News/New York Times poll.
Americans are opposed, by 51 percent to 41 percent, to Bush's request for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
The slump in Bush's approval ratings is very similar to Lyndon B. Johnson's poll numbers during the Vietnam war. Johnson's numbers surged after he got Congress to approve the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution," which gave him authority to take "all necessary measures" after North Vietnamese ships allegedly fired on American ships off the Vietnamese coast.
But when LBJ escalated the war and it became apparent that the United States was involved in a costly and unnecessary war, his credibility diminished. By December 1967, Johnson had an approval rating of 46 percent. That's within 3 percentage points of Bush's current numbers.
In another sign that Bush is in trouble, he is locked in a dead heat against a generic Democratic opponent. He is favored by 44 percent and an unnamed Democrat is favored by 44 percent, according to the CBS News/New York Times poll.
Only 43 percent of the voters said that Bush deserved re-election, while 49 percent said they think it is time for someone new, according to the Zogby America poll. This same poll has shown him trailing a generic Democratic rival in its most recent two surveys.
Of the Democrats, Sen. John Kerry and retired Gen. Wesley Clark are Bush's most serious competition. Both nudged ahead of Bush in the CNN/USA Today poll. A Kerry-Clark ticket would be formidable.
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