Occam's Razor Meets Bush's Ratings

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"Libertarian Democrat" Terry Michael scoffs at the various self-serving explanations for Bush's low low low approval ratings (e.g., second-term fatigue, White House staff fatigue, fatigue fatigue, etc.) and suggests an alternative:

George Bush's approval ratings are in the toilet for a very simple reason: the self-correcting rough justice, in a transparent democracy, of bad policy and demagogic politics….

Set yourself up as the only reliable defense against terrorist evil-do'ers. Deride the opposition party as aiding and abetting suicide bombers, and failing to support our troops if they question your efforts to make the world safe for theocracy. Then see what happens when something like the Dubai ports deal comes along and has the appearance, even though not the reality, of doing just the opposite of what you promised.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: Abdul Rahman Update

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  1. It’s called swarming. You raise thousands of doubts of any kind you can create about your opponent.

    It stops working when he starts doing it back, in the next campaign.

  2. Yawn. Fuck the DPW brouhaha. Bush is the one of the spendinest, government-growinest, I-do-what-I-want-because-I’m-prez-o-dent-inest commanders in chief of the last century. The fact that something like the DPW horseshit could drag him down speaks not very much to the administration as it does to the American sheeple. It’s like if a madman breaks into your house, rapes your wife, kills your children, burns your house to the ground…and you lambast him for not wiping his feet on the doormat. The fact that it took the idiot populace something as meaningless as the DPW thing to give Bush a smackdown just goes to show how fucking ignorant we are.

  3. If I were prez-o-dent, I’d end the war on drugs, but I might start a new war. A war on the word ‘sheeple’.

  4. Evan:

    I can’t top your rant so I won’t even try. Good show.

    We will remember Bush to be the lousiest president since Carter, but in a different way. Jimmy was flaccid and ineffectual. Bush Jr. just plain sucks. Like his stint in college, history will have Bush at a C minus at best.

  5. The fact that it took the idiot populace something as meaningless as the DPW thing to give Bush a smackdown just goes to show how fucking ignorant we are.

    Bush’s approval ratings been in the crapper for months.

    http://www.hist.umn.edu/~ruggles/Approval.htm

    The DPW flap was just people kicking him while he was down. It was a big deal *because* his ratings are so low. His ratings are low because he’s been a terrible president.

  6. Yes, presidential comparisons are a true Red Queen’s race. Whether one is worse in some way than another doesn’t really matter. They all come out fine. It’s we poor citizens that get to deal with the trifecta incompetence and corruption of Congress, the POTUS, and the Supreme Court.

    Not to say that Bush isn’t a bad president. He is.

  7. What I am looking forward to is seeing what a terrible ex-president he turns out to be…. I certainly doubt you will be able to make Carter comparisons then

  8. Garth:

    I was only razzing Carter’s presidency. He turned out to be a much, much better ex-president. It’s profound to see a former world leader wear a tool belt, and it’s not just a prop.

    Bush Jr. is going to milk the paid speaker route for all it’s worth, and vacation the rest of the time. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he came out as a Saudi advocate.

  9. I can’t understand how Americans could ever have taken Bush seriously in the first place. He is so clearly not up to the job intellectually that somebody else (Rove? Cheney?) must be in charge. Reagan had a weak grasp of complex issues, but at least he could remember his lines. Whenever Bush deviates from the script, he’s incoherent. It’s not surprising that he poll numbers are slipping; it is surprising that they were ever high.

  10. Nice Guy – you’re kidding right? Carter is unequivocably the worst ex-President in US history. He’s an appeaser of monstrous dictators and really just a foul human being…

    On the subject of Bush’s approval ratings – they are low because he lost the moderates due to the war dragging on with no clear and easy victory in sight, and he lost the conservatives with his spending. Since he never had the liberals, he really doesn’t have much of a support base anymore, does he…

  11. What makes you people think George W Peron is ever going to BE an ex-president?

    We simply cannot permit discontinuity to disrupt the carefully planned and delicately nuanced strategy of the Global War on Terror. Jeepers- if we take our eye off the ball for even a second, the boogeyman is going to be on us with all four feet.

  12. My hope is two fold:

    1. Bush in retirment is just that: retired. Carter probably has done more good since his presidency than during it, and most of it has been private work, but I don’t see Bush having the personal cause(s) that private work excells at funding.

    2. That the next POTUS is better, not just a Demacan/Republicrat meet the new boss, same as the old boss version.

    My fear is that neither hope will be fullfilled.

  13. I think that Bush’s problem is having a congress of the same party. Clinton got much better after he lost the congress in 1994 and we moved into lower spending gridlock. I hope that 2008 brings divided government again, and I hope it is with a Dem president, so that we can stop the flow of religious conservatives on to the SCOTUS. You know that the Rep congress would be screaming bloody murder regarding spending if Bush was a Dem, so replace him with one and the spending will dry up.

  14. A “better ex-president than president”!?!?

    How hard is it to do that? – gee just don’t fuck things up – which they don’t have the power to do anymore.

    Carter’s presidency was a clusterfuck – anything he could have done afterwards would be an improvement.

    Dubya’s is a superclusterfuck – so imagine he spends his retirement digging wells in the desert, “promoting peace and reconciliation”, or doing whatever pc bullshit Carter does – does that mean Dubya will have redeemed himself?

    Hell no. Those morons should only be judged based on their terms in office. Anything after that is just riding on the publicity of being POTUS. Bill Gates & Bono do better.

  15. “Carter is unequivocably the worst ex-President in US history.”

    There was an Onion article a few years back about the arrest of Carter for committing international peace crimes. Is that what you are referring too?

    Or is it his solid work with the Carter center? Habitat for Humanity? The fact that he is virtually the only U.S. figure that anyone trusts enough to call to monitor elections? The fact that he had balls enough to piss off both sides in his 2002 speech in Cuba? His Nobel Peace Prize?

    How would an ex-president possibly get in your good graces, then?

  16. Wow, I stopped reading after the Hitler reference. Glad the left never resorts to cliche when logical arguments will do.

  17. Terrible president. Absolutely awful.

    Someone finish this sentence: George W. Bush did a really good job with…

    Worst president since Andrew Jackson, who was the genocidiest president we ever had.

  18. George W. Bush did a really good job with…

    …Overthrowing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

    …Presided over a decent economy, helped by tax cuts, lowering of estate tax, etc.

    What have you been up to, Joe? Posting on the internet these days, huh?

  19. Joe: Andrew Jackson killed the Bank of the United States and rejected the nullification doctrine, so he wasn’t all bad. Regarding genocide, if you evaluate his actions as President, I don’t see how he was any worse than his predecessors or successors through 1890, trail of tears notwithstanding. For example, how do Lincoln and Grant come off any better? –Ron

  20. Everything governments do is wrong. The bigger the government, the greater the damage done.
    It takes a dumb person or a psychotic to want to hold the position of President… other than for the perks.
    Clinton is an example of one who just wanted the perks.

  21. Actually, joe, since I defended John Kerry yesterday, I have to provide W equal time today. 🙂

    George W. Bush did a really good job with (or a much better job than I expected*) communicating many of the issues after 9/11. He was quite restrained in the fearmongering but firm in response. Other world leaders and some of his domestic political opponents seemed to have felt the same way at the time (such that, for example, there was a nearly universal consensus in favor of war with the Taliban). His standing was never higher and he squandered it. He might have been remembered for being great but now he will be considered a mediocrity (I doubt that anyone with any historical perspective will be able to categorically label him “worst president ever”).

    Where GWB has fucked up is in the execution of much of the program since. Like the Iraq war, which dealt with a situation that needed to be dealt with (a plus for him) but seems to be badly flawed in its execution (many minuses).

    *I also cannot say that a President Gore (or president Clinton, for that matter, if it weren’t for that blasted 22nd Ammendment) would not have handled the situation any differently.

  22. George W. Bush did a really good job with..
    …Afghanistan
    …overthrowing Saddam
    …Immigration
    …Appointing Supreme court nominees
    …Not asking the UN for permission for anything
    …Overturning the assault weapons ban
    …Tax Cuts

  23. ,i>Wow, I stopped reading after the Hitler reference. Glad the left never resorts to cliche when logical arguments will do.

    Actually, I think the same thing when I hear the word “homeland.”

    Overthrowing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

    Yeah, because the NEW Afghani regime clearly believes in religious freedom.

  24. George W. Bush did a really good job with..
    …Afghanistan
    …overthrowing Saddam
    …Immigration
    …Appointing Supreme court nominees
    …Not asking the UN for permission for anything
    …Overturning the assault weapons ban
    …Tax Cuts

  25. “genocidiest”? That’ll keep me smiling all day.

    Seriously, though, what’s next? It seems like Bush has been Pres foreeeeeever. The thought of Hilary taking over next makes my brain seize up. Is there no one reasonable in the offing? Any serious third-party candidates on the horizon?

  26. Whassa matter you, Aunt Bee?
    Anarchy not good enough for you?

  27. Someone finish this sentence: George W. Bush did a really good job with…

    Hmm, making LBJ look like less of an brutally authoritarian redneck by comparison?

  28. Kwais: Interesting list, but not very objective. What has he accomplished on immigration? At the very least, the jury is still out on that. Also, there has to be at least an asterisk next to Supreme Court appointments regarding Harriet Myers. Regarding the UN, I would be interested in your list of examples of Presidents who failed to act because they did not have UN “permission”. If this reference is to Iraq, and Bush Sr.’s vs Bush Jr.’s way of doing things, I don’t think its even debateable that Sr.’s approach was more successful. Sr. didn’t push on to Baghdad, but it clearly wasn’t because he didn’t have “permission” from the UN. The fact that you have to include an issue as trivial as the assault weapons ban to the list hurts your argument more than it helps. Finally, regarding tax cuts, those are as easy to get as spending increases politically, so I don’t see what’s so impressive about that.

    Oh, even on overthrowing Saddam, things would have gone much smoother if he hadn’t screwed-up and failed to get Turkey on board. Even Rumsfeld agrees that Turkey’s refusal to allow us to deploy troops through their country hurt the invasion.

    Afghanistan went well, no question about it. We got the tacit or explicit support of every neighboring country, achieved the ouster of the Taliban without a major deployment of troops, and did it with broad international support.

  29. Carter’s activities since he left office are a mixed bag. On the one hand, some of his charity type work is top-notch.

    On the other hand, he can’t keep himself from acting as kind of a roving anti-American ambassador of ill will.

    On the whole, hard to say if he’s done more harm than good. But he’s definitely an irritating old fart.


  30. Yeah, because the NEW Afghani regime clearly believes in religious freedom.

    Are you serious dude? Are you actually saying there has been little or no improvement? Are you for real?

    Or is your complaint that; while you recognize that there has been an improvement, in a way that no one thought was possible (I remember the news shows where they had the expert russian military and others talk about how it couldn’t be done).

    That while there has been an improvement, it is not quite up to your standards.

    I agree, it should be better. But I don’t know how to make it so. Perhaps you think you do?

  31. Kwais,

    “George W. Bush did a really good job with..
    …Afghanistan
    …overthrowing Saddam
    …Immigration
    …Appointing Supreme court nominees
    …Not asking the UN for permission for anything
    …Overturning the assault weapons ban
    …Tax Cuts”

    …We control two cities (and nothing else) and the heroine that is now produced there will kill more Americans than all the terrorists combined ever could. Yeah, great job.
    …Iraq was a secular state that produced no terrorism. Now it’s fast becoming a bloody civil war-torn sectarian nightmare. Yeah, great job.
    …Fast track piuctureless visas to Saudi students prior to 9/11. YEah, great job.
    …Two scumbags on the SCOTUS. Yeah, great job.
    …Isolating us from all of our allies after 9/11. Yeah, great job.
    …More assault weapons that lowlife hicks can sell to drug gangs. Yeah, great job.
    …Massive foreign debt. Yeah, great job.

    This is the most stupid list of accomplishments I’ve ever seen. Not a one of them has been either successful or is even true!

    Jeez, what dopey list.

    JMJ

  32. Ron,
    I give GW the benefit of the doubt on Harriet Myers and will consider that as a feint, or misdirection. There is a strong chance I am too generous, but the result two appointed are from what I can tell a good accomplishment. Of course time will tell.

    I don’t think its even debateable that Sr.’s approach was more successful. I would debate it. Perhaps I have been to too many gunshows and have a negative gut reaction to the UN.

    My inclusion of the gun ban. I understand that is not as huge a deal to everyone else as it is too me.

    I may have done things different with regards to Turkey. There are a lot of things going on with them and the Kurds and a lot of other angles.

    My lowly observation from the short time I was in Afghanistan and the low view of the whole situation I had, my guess is that the value of international support is way overrated. And that we and the Afghans do the only real fighting.

    I think that if our enemies were pumping money into Afghanistan to fight us that they are pumping into Iraq, it would be a whole nother story and body bags would be coming back from there plentifully. And I don’t know how many body bags our allies could withstand and stay our allies.

  33. Even if you believe that we absolutely, positively had to go into Afghanistan (I do) and Iraq (I don’t), to suggest that Bush did “a good job” in those places is to absolutely ignore the bungling and negligence and flat-out dishonesty with which those jobs were done. If those were “jobs well done” I’d hate to see poorly executed ones.

  34. JMJ,
    I guess you and me see things very differently. So I’ll just add this snarky response to two of your points.

    Yeah I wish Bush hadn’t been elected, so there would be no drugs and the street gangs wouldn’t have guns. Much like was the case before he was elected.

  35. George W. Bush did a really good job with..

    …Afghanistan -adequate but hardly “a really good job”.

    …overthrowing Saddam -the juries out, but kinda questionable IMO. Not the Saddam part, that is, the part about W doing “a really good job”.

    …Immigration -good rhetoric but so far no legislation that resembles what he’s advocated plus a huge rift in the party.

    …Appointing Supreme court nominees -maybe appointing Harriet Myers was some kind of brilliant strategery, but I fail to comprehend.

    …Not asking the UN for permission for anything -You could say the same about Clinton or as Ron pointed out just about any prez. But then you won’t find any major power leader who asked the UN for permission for anything to do with their national interest except as window dressing. I mean the only country that takes the UN seriously is Canada.

    …Overturning the assault weapons ban -the assault weapons ban ended because Congress did not reauthorize it, which is a good thing. B ut Bush said he would sign it if it was reauthorized. ZERO points here.

    …Tax Cuts-OK

    Like I said a mixed record, but nothing spectacular. No brilliant moves, no principled stands (except Iraq maybe, and some might just call that stubborn or even arrogant).

  36. First of all, all of the “Not doing something…” answers get thrown right out. Yes, he also did a really good job not shooting anybody in the face. Doesn’t count.

    Overthrowing the Taliban was a good thing, certainly, but well done? They’re regrouping the countryside, the military situation is getting worse as a result, and the Al Qaeda leadership and cadres escaped across the Pakistan border.

    Overthrowing Saddam? Not even war supporters declare that this was “a really good job” by the president, with failing to control the rioting, allowing our troops to have their legs cut out from under them with Abu Ghraib and the collapse of the WMD argument, the insurgencies, the ongoing ethnic violence.

    Taxes and the economy? The debt is what, $six trillion? I guess if you only look at the tax burden on the wealthy and corporations, and you’re ideologically inclined, you can say he did a good job with taxes, but you’re dooming yourself to a “the operation was successful but the patient died” refutation.

    Immigration? We’ll see. Hasn’t done squat yet. Some of his rhetoric has been nice, but then, so was his rhetoric about Social Security and Mars.

    Supreme Court nominees? We’ve got Roberts (+), Myers (-) and Alito (?, depending on your politics). Even if you like Alito, it’s tough to apply “really good job” to this record.

    Isaac is the only one who came up with a good answer – he headed off anti-Arab, anti-Muslim hostility very well in the weeks after 9/11. I’ll jump on this bandwagon, and say that his rhetorical offensives about democracy and human rights during the popular uprisings in Ukraine and Lebanon were very well done, as was his maneuvering at the UN regarding Syrian occupation in Lebanon. Just the right strategies, and well executed.

  37. “Afghanistan” – points for doing what any politician would have done, taking out an enemy that struck us. Points off for turning it into an exercise in nation building – a simple warning that any future government that similarly harbors terrorists who strike us will suffer the same fate, and then “adios” would have been the preferred strategy. So we’ll call this one neutral.

    “Economy” Big negatives for failing to veto any spending bills, or attempting to cut spending. Big negatives for hiding behind Greenspan’s massive inflationary policies that have created a massive housing bubble which is worse than the tech bubble because the number of people involved and which we are only just starting to feel the consequences of. Bernanke is already unable to figure out what he should do with the inverted yield curve, but rest assured, the upcoming recession is directly related to Bush’s recession recovery policies from 2002-2004.

    “Overthrowing Saddam” – negative points for appointing the U.S. government world policeman. Big negative points for believing in the reverse domino theory and that the U.S. is about democracy, not constitutionally limited government. Big negative points for maintaining our presence even when it is clearly the biggest single factor creating instability now. Big negative.

    “Immigration” – someones going to have to let me know what he’s actually accomplished here, other than create a massive CF by introducing Homeland Security into the alphabet soup of federal gov’t agencies. I’ll just call it neutral as I’ll presume he’s done something positive to cancel out that negative.

    “Supreme Court” – yay! A couple of nominees that feel the 4th amendment is a piece of toilet paper, and that Article 0 of the Constitution establishes a unitary executive for the perpetual war. Just what we needed! At least Roberts pays some lip service to federalism, but I think he will be a pale shadow of Rhenquist on the issue. Big negative.

    “Assault weapons” – as far as I understand, he was willing to sign the renewal, so I’m not sure how much credit he deserves on this one. Neutral.

    And I’ll add the final one – precedent. Big negatives, all around. W actually hasn’t abused the unitary executive powers he claims too badly. However, he’s opened alot of doors for future presidents, and I fear that a future President Clinton will sprint through them and knock down a bunch of others.

    Worst ever? Nah. But nothing redeeming either. Just like his predecessor.

  38. Jason,

    When you become The Prez can you please also declare holy jihad on “POTUS” and “SCOTUS”?

    Thanks.

  39. We control two cities (and nothing else) and the heroine that is now produced there will kill more Americans than all the terrorists combined ever could. Yeah, great job.

    Am I seriously seeing this on a libertarian weblog? I’m not gonna nitpick the foreign policy stuff, I’m sure there things you could say Bush coulda have done better, but surely we need to make a distinction between innocent folks being murdered by terrorism and morons deciding to fuck up their lives with heroin.

  40. Joe and Isaac, help me not be so cynical. The reason I’m unimpressed with the things you mentioned (leadership after 9/11, speeches regarding Syria and Lebanon, etc.) is because I’ve seen no evidence that Bush had anything to do with what he said in those matters. Sure, I’ll give props to Card or even Rove or whoever told him to say what he said (and the speech writers, of course), but Bush just read or said what he was told to. I suppose he “signed off” on those speeches, but that doesn’t mean he had any part in formulating the ideas contained in them. Maybe he did, but there’s no evidence to suggest the man is interested in (or perhaps capable of)that kind of considered thought.

    Whenever Bush tries to describe a personal philosophy, it’s inevitably jaw-droppingly simplistic, pandering to the base emotional reflexes of mainstream America. Whenever he goes off script, his inarticulate, thoughtless stammering makes you understand why he’s never accomplished anything on his own in his entire life.

    I’m open to the notion that I’m misreading this simple, spoiled, willfully ignorant little pawn of a man, I just need some evidence to suggest otherwise.

  41. Someone finish this sentence: George W. Bush did a really good job with…

    …giving folks like joe something to spin their wheels about for the past six years.

    Me, I’m still waiting for Kerry to win by six points, like some of those polls were telling us would happen a week or so out from the election.

  42. Joe and Isaac, help me not be so cynical.

    Good heavens, Les, the last thing I would ever do is discourage cynicism about our great leader.

    Much of what I said was “damning with faint praise” but the fact of the matter I was not the only one to be somewhat impressed (and surprised) by Bush after 9/11.

    It’s true that Bush is no great thinker but that does not mean he is unintelligent. His opponents have rued the day they misunderestimated him on more than one occasion. It’s true he has good handlers, but handlers cannot account for all his success. And well, hey, even if he only played the part well that was what was needed. Didn’t R Reagan say something about not knowing how anyone could be prez without being an actor.

    I tend to agree with Molly Ivins about W. She once described him as “affable and intelligent”. she also thought of him as well-meaning but misguided but certainly not the epitome of evil that so many of his enemies take him for. I also agree with her that he is a poor president in general, but I probably think that for completely different reasons.

    Whenever Bush tries to describe a personal philosophy, it’s inevitably jaw-droppingly simplistic, pandering to the base emotional reflexes of mainstream America.

    In that you are describing any generic politician. Even the Rhodes Scholar Clinton had to resort to folky bubbaism to get the plain folks to warm to him.

  43. Assault weapons ban–Bush took no principled stand against it and publicly promised to sign the ban when it reached his desk

    Tax cuts–Actually tax deferments. Eventually someone has to pay the bill for out of control spending.

    In the words of comic book guy “worst president ever”.

  44. dagny,
    Am I seriously seeing this on a libertarian weblog?
    Yes you are. However, it was posted by JMJ who, near as I can figure, is a died in the wool liberal. You see, unlike some of those “mainstream” blogs we practice a kindler, gentler form of crowd control here. Rather than booting “liberals” or “conservatives” off of the board or deleting thier posts we prefer to drag thier arguments into the light and shoot them full of holes with our extra-legally over-produced machine guns. So, just because somebody here said it doesn’t mean that he/she/it is a libertarian.

  45. Les,

    It’s like this: I hold Bush responsible for every bad thing that his administration does. The buck stops with him. So, to be consistent, I have to give him credit if the Dubya Corporation manages to put on an effective bit of political theater with him.

    Fair’s fair.

  46. Those are good points, Isaac, especially about generic politicians. I certainly don’t hate the man, not knowing him at all, and I don’t think he’s evil. I think the thing he’s contributed on his own to his political success is his simple, down-home personality. And I imagine he’s had to do some reading he didn’t want to do. Maybe I’m just resentful because of his incredibly unimpressive pre-political life. That and the fact that he’s the kind of guy when asked how he thought history would judge him, says, “Who cares? We’ll all be dead.”

  47. Someone finish this sentence: George W. Bush did a really good job with…

    This almost has it backwards–few President’s have done a really good job with anything.

    …Surely, the President could have taken it upon himself to do more–and that would have been worse.

  48. “Surely, the President could have taken it upon himself to do more–and that would have been worse.”

    He stll has a few years, give him time. I doubt we’ve seen the depths to which he can sink.

  49. I’d have to give Bush a D- on Afghanistan.

    Why? Because the initial success belongs to the military, not Bush. Bush then lost interest, and started focusing on Iraq, before a lasting victory was achieved in Afghanistan.

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