A CBS News poll has President Bush clocking a 35% approval rating — 35 percent. To put this in perspective, that’s only one point higher than the approval rating Jimmy Carter had the day he left office, and the lowest second-term presidential approval rating since Nixon wallowed in the 20s during the dog days of Watergate.
Another bit of perspective: For Bush’s second term to date, his highest approval ranking, according to CNN, was 57%, which is what it was in early February. That’s just three points higher than President Clinton’s lowest approval rating by CNN for his entire second term, in August ’97, as charted here.
Now, we can quibble about the details in terms of these polls. But it’s certainly accurate to say that Bush is far more unpopular now with the American public than Clinton was, which is a datum to remember the next time some right-winger gets all frothy about those divisive Bill Years. The Bill Years ain’t a patch on what we got going now, my friends.
I can’t imagine that the Bush approval rating could possibly get any lower than it is at the moment, but then again, that’s what I thought when it hit 39% a few weeks ago. Considering that there’s probably 33% of Americans who would rather chew on jagged glass than to show disloyalty to a sitting Republican president, a 35% approval rating basically means that no one outside the ranks of the ideologically paralyzed right-wing approves of our president. No one. The rating couldn’t possibly go lower. Could it?
What do I think about the Bush’s approval rating? Well, I think it’s exactly what he deserves. He’s a terrible president with an incompetent administration, and it’s gratifying to see the large majority of the American people coming around to this fact. Would that they would have come around to this conclusion a year ago, when the vote was on.
You’ll note, however, that I did not say that I was happy that Bush has such a God-awful rating. I’m not. Having a weak and deeply unpopular president makes us vulnerable as a nation, particularly when we are engaged in a war, and especially when engaged in a war that it is becoming increasingly clear the origins of which are best described as an administration misadventure. I don’t like Bush, and I wish he weren’t president; nevertheless he is my president, and my country is ill-served at home and abroad by his weaknesses, both real and perceived. Noting that this is a mess of his own making is cold comfort indeed. Bush may have made this bed, but we all have to lie in it.
One hopes that if the American people get anything out of the Bush second term, it’s to be reminded that the next time around, Republican or Democrat or something in between, they might want to try for competence. It’s not too much to hope for. Because at a 35% approval rating, we have a clear indication people recognize that incompetence isn’t working.