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  • boomer_here boomer_here May 14, 2006 2:24 PM Flag

    Can W get back on track?

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    What will it take to get Bush back on track?

    WASHINGTON - Can George W. Bush get his groove back?

    Much has been made in recent days of the President's plummeting job-approval ratings, especially among conservative Republicans. He lost most Democrats long ago.

    Barring another terrorist attack, which would instantly if only temporarily rally the country, are there ways for the President to climb out of the slough of only 31 percent popularity?

    Yes, but they are not likely to happen.

    Mr. Bush would have to make some dramatic, unexpected changes. Because he does not believe he's doing anything wrong, he's not likely to swerve from the way he's been governing.

    Why are Americans so disillusioned with the White House?

    Pollsters say the job-approval rating is a will-o'-the-wisp way to judge popular sentiment and isn't all that reliable. Popularity goes up, it comes down, sometimes in just one news cycle. The more valued tool, they argue, is the question of whether Americans think the country is on the "right track" or the "wrong track."

    And there the news is not at all good for the administration. Almost seven out of 10 don't like the direction of the country.

    Americans think the war in Iraq has been handled disastrously because of stubbornness, oversimplification, and a desire for war with Saddam Hussein no matter what.

    Americans think high gas prices could have been prevented.

    Americans think there's a "culture of corruption," to use the Democratic phrase. They blame both parties, but it hurts Republicans more right now because they're in power.

    Americans think immigration is a crisis. Rightly or wrongly, they think the administration has faltered on securing the borders and developing a tough, workable policy on who comes in and who stays.

    Americans think the nation's stature around the world has fallen in the aftermath of 9/11, and that now there's a perception among millions of Muslims that the country is at war with them.

    Americans think that Mr. Bush's determination to make the Middle East a bastion of democracy (of which they wholeheartedly approve) is not seen around the world as noble but as self-serving because the administration failed to sell it abroad.

    Once Mr. Bush had an approval rating of 91 percent. Now people are asking: Can this man get anything right?

    The truth is, Americans are bored with Mr. Bush and scared that he's incompetent in a dangerous age when America's reputation and ideals are waning. Many Republicans, astounded by the mounting debt he is piling up for future generations and the little it has bought (think tax relief for the very rich), fear he's lost his conservative moorings.

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