Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bush's Descent

It is widely known by now just how unpopular George W. Bush has become. But many see it as linked only to Iraq. As important as the war is, the turning point for this administration was Hurricane Katrina. An incisive analysis in today's Washington Post by Dan Balz makes the case well:

Bush's presidency took a fateful turn during Katrina and reminders of the damage inflicted from that storm were resurrected again this week with the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. What linked the two events -- and what has left the president permanently weakened -- were perceptions of incompetence within the Bush administration. ...

An analysis of public polls by the Democracy Corps, a Democratic organization, found that Bush's approval rating in July 2005 averaged 46.1 percent and his disapproval averaged 50.2 percent. By the following July, his approval averaged 38.1 percent and his disapproval averaged 56.2 percent. Last month, his approval averaged 29.3 percent while his disapproval averaged 65 percent.

In short, in the past two years, the margin between the president's approval and disapproval ratings fell from minus 4.1 percentage points to minus 35.8 percentage points.

Much more than Katrina explains the continuing drop in Bush's support in the past 12 months, but there is little doubt that the hurricane crystallized negative perceptions about Bush's performance that he never has been able to shake.

TC has argued before that the Republicans appear to be heading for an unprecedented disaster in 2008. According to Balz, they now seem to agree with this assessment:

What worries Republicans most is that the damage inflicted by the administration now costs them as much as it does the president ... while the White House may be worried about Bush's legacy, congressional Republicans fear the consequences of administration incompetence will affect them and their party in the coming election. ...

Two years after the hurricane hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the breakdown in government at all levels is well documented. But the president then and now has paid the biggest price for the inadequate response. Iraq will be the central event in the shaping of Bush's legacy, but in terms of political devastation, Katrina will be remain far more than a footnote in that history.

The political implications of this administration's failure are just now sinking in within official Washington. A major regime change is coming.

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