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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Saturday, 25 June 2005

Topic: Dissent

Polling Notes: Effective Response to Disappointing Numbers

As background to the now widely-covered comment made last week by Karl Rove - "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." - and noting the Sept 14, 2001 congressional resolution authorizing force against those that attack the US passed the House 420-1 and the Senate 98-0 with not any mention of indictments, therapy, or calls for understanding - there seems to be a bit of a disconnect.

One might assume Rove, defended by the White House and his party, knows the truth about those who are unhappy with Bush and the way things are going. These folks who have questions may have voted that way, but they didn't really MEAN it when they voted that way, in spite of how they voted then and what they say now. He, as a taxpayer-paid public servant and official of the administration, knows them better than they know themselves?

Perhaps so. Or perhaps he's just being a provocateur to rally support in difficult times. Calling those who have questions weak, cowards and, as is clear in some of his remarks, no better than traitors, is not so remarkable. Such a position may seem a bit defensive, but it does get "your side" to ramp up and be more effectively righteous and angry. But these are, after all, just words, from an official of the administration, characterizing folks with questions as cowards and possibly traitors. Standard political stuff.

If you don't want to be labeled as such, don't raise questions. Simple. Get with the program.

As for what Rove said and why he said it now, the problem is something that needs to be attended to, as the natives are restless, as shown in new polling data.

Minor Item: We all know that the Republicans while in power run the economy well because they are businessmen who know business, or so the conventional wisdom goes. But the American Research Group (ARG) poll released June 23 shows sixty-percent of registered voters say they disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy. If you total up those who say the national economy is "bad," "very bad" or "terrible"? That comes out to sixty-three percent.

But the economy is a minor matter, and, as my conservative friends argue, there's not much any president, Democrat or Republican, can do to influence it, except to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy so they will invest and the general economy will grow. And that this hasn't worked this time is further proof that supply disruptions, from severe weather or war or whatever, are outside the control of any president - thus Clinton was just lucky in the nineties. Yes, some of us agree no one can do much about the weather, or earthquakes or tidal waves and such, but the war thing may be different in some way. Still, no one outside the community of tin-foil hat conspiracy weirdos claims this administration was responsible for the September 11 attacks, at least in any direct way. So give Bush a Mulligan here.

But as for how Bush is doing generally, these data might explain Rove needing to remind people to shape up -
Among Republicans (36% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 84% approve of the way Bush is handling his job and 12% disapprove. Among Democrats (38% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 18% approve and 77% disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job. Among Independents (26% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 17% approve and 75% disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job as president.
It seems the independents have gone over to the dark side, or what Rove calls the side of the cowards and traitors. Not good. So, to explain, they need to be reminded that if they don't want to be called cowards and traitors, they had better change their minds.

The really starting late week poll comes from Rasmussen Reports with this:
49% Say Bush Responsible for Provoking Iraq War
44% Say Hussein

June 23, 2005 - Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans say that President Bush is more responsible for starting the War with Iraq than Saddam Hussein. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 44% take the opposite view and believe Hussein shoulders most of the responsibility.

In late 2002, months before the fighting began, most Americans thought that Hussein was the one provoking the War. Just one-in-four thought the President was doing the provoking at that time. …
That is a change, and quite odd. As James Wolcott comments -
What amazes me is that more Americans now blame Bush for provoking the war with Iraq than blame Saddam Hussein. That's not an argument I've heard anyone make on cable talk or on the op-ed pages. Somehow Americans drew that conclusion all on their own! The tide of popular opinion turning against the war is washing away walls we didn't even know were there.
Something is up. Rove's speech in New York was designed to deal with it. The message of the speech? Change your mind or Rove will call you names.

Over at Whiskey Bar, Billmon (William Montgomery) has more complex analysis than that.
I actually think Rove's rant should be seen as a somewhat encouraging sign. Rove and his idiot chorus aren't roaring at the top of their lungs to try to drown out the liberals - that would be absurd overkill, given how effectively the corporate media has ridiculed and/or demonized the likes of Howard Dean and Dick Durbin. No, Rove's hate rally is aimed squarely at suppressing the growing doubts of the great silent majority - and even, to a certain extent, those of the conservative true believers, some of whom are showing ominous signs of war weariness.

... nearly 60% of the American people are now willing to say, flat out, that they oppose the war in Iraq. That's a remarkable statement. I'm not sure 60% ever opposed the war in Vietnam, even after it had been lost. You don't turn those kind of numbers around with PR spin - the casualty lists now speak louder than the microphone, even one as powerful as the White House's.

Add to that the prospect of still higher gas prices, unfilled (and probably unfillable) economic expectations and the black ring of scandal widening around the DeLay-Abramoff-Reed-Norquist axis of weevils, and it's clear that recycled Reaganite optimism - the 'morning in America' brand of propaganda - isn't going to cut it.

So Rove is falling back on his classic strategy of rallying the base. What's more, he's mainlining it a much rawer and more savage version of the conservative message than the White House usually permits itself. While the customary surrogates - Fox News, Rush, the blogger hyena pack - have snarled and snapped, the results apparently have been found wanting. Now Bush's 'brain' is stepping into the ring himself.

But, like fellow psychopath Mike Tyson, Rove isn't just telegraphing his punches, he's also displaying the depths of his fear. The rhetorical ear chewing and head butting is a clear sign the champ doesn't have the juice any more, and knows it. Rove is trying to get by on sheer intimidation. He's pushing as many primordial conservative buttons as he can - leaning on them, in fact - in hopes he can once again make the dreaded liberals the story, not the march of folly currently sinking into the Iraqi quicksand.
As, those dreaded liberals who have ruined everything! It may indeed be time to excoriate them once more, because, as Hunter over at the Daily Kos explains -
The stories coming out in the next month are going to be very, very bad for Bush and for everyone involved in selling the Iraq War. Bush's numbers have absolutely tanked, the Downing Street documents are getting more and more attention, Bush and Cheney are increasingly seen as so out-of-touch with ground reports from Iraq as to border on slightly delusional, and Senate Democrats are beginning to increasingly demand specific documents relating to the ("fixed?") claims made by the Bush Administration in the runup to the Iraq War.

Therefore, anyone who doesn't support Bush's failed and increasingly unpopular policies is a traitor. That's the line they're going with.
Yeah, so? That's the way the game is played. It's just name-calling.

And it won't make the effort to change Social Security - from a safety-net insurance program of fixed benefits for set contributions into a can-you-beat-the-market investment contest - any more popular. Rove can say the dreaded liberals hate our troops, but after the senate Republicans voted against budget increases for veterans three times this year, the dreaded liberals can point to Associated Press stories like this -
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Department of Veterans Affairs told Congress that its health care costs grew faster than expected and left a $1 billion hole in its budget this year, lawmakers said Thursday.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer, the Republican from Indiana, said the department can meet this year's health care costs by drawing on spare funds and money from other operations, including building construction.

But next year's health care budget falls well over $1 billion short, said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

"I was on the phone this morning with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson letting him know that I am not pleased that this has happened," said Craig, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"This shortfall results from either deliberate misdirection or gross incompetence by this administration and the Department of Veteran Affairs," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.
As you see, both sides can call names. Call me a coward and a traitor and I'll call you a liar and incompetent. Of course neither gets the veterans programs funded.

So the polls have gone in the weeds for the administration. Name-calling was predictable. And it is relatively harmless.

But is that all we get?

Posted by Alan at 14:07 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 25 June 2005 14:18 PDT home

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