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NOTE: LiberalOasis will publish on a reduced schedule during the holidays, posting columns as events warrant.

December 28, 2002 PERMALINK
Dubya‚s Approval Rating Plummets (Part II)
(posted Dec. 28 1:50 AM ET)

The enterprising Interesting Times (via Eschaton) has smartly uploaded a scan of the Time/CNN poll with Bush at 55% approval -- so now we have cyberproof.

Polling Report has the info on the last several Time/CNN polls, up through this past November when Bush had 64% approval. (Scroll down to "CNN/Time Poll conducted by Harris Interactive.")

Other thoughts on this from Skippy The Bush Kangaroo, Tapped, Ruminate This, and Thinking It Through.

After taking a merciless beating from Thinking It Through, Instapundit finally blogged on the matter -- though it seems he tried to avoid losing face by not linking to TIT (sorry, had to be done) or even this humble site.

For the record, Instapundit's point, that no one gave the poll much attention because other polls have Bush doing better, is pretty weak.

1. That argument would have more weight if CNN itself gave the biggest news out of its own poll any attention at all.

If it was mentioned repeatedly on CNN, and a news release was sent to the Associated Press (as appears to have been done with other elements of the poll) perhaps some outlets would have downplayed it, using Instapundit's reasoning, but surely some outlets would have picked it up.

2. There's also a major double standard here, take our old friend Al Gore.

Last month, a single poll saddled Gore with a 19% favorable rating. Taking into account other recent polls, that figure was likely an aberration.

But the pundits declined to give the poll context, and parroted the 19% figure as undisputed fact. (See Nov. 27 and Dec. 12)

In the Bush case, the media could have reported the Time/CNN poll and also have noted that other, less recent polls said different -- like the W. Post/ABC poll which had Dubya at 66%.

But instead, they just ignored the story, though as was said in Point 1, the blame falls largest on CNN.

3.Perhaps this is a minor point, but the W. Post/ABC poll was taken Dec. 12-15, right smack when Bush gave his Trent Lott speech (the 12th to be exact).

That certainly could have puffed up the numbers.

The Time/CNN poll was taken later, Dec. 17-18, as Bush's mug faded from the story, replaced with stories of backroom intrigue.

That could have allowed the numbers to settle down again.

In any event, we'll have to wait until the next bad Bush poll comes out and see if a pattern emerges with the media coverage.

And that may not be until a few months after the war.

(UPDATE Dec. 29 12:45 AM ET -- More insights from MyDD and Nathan Newman, as well as a contrary take from Daily Kos.

Also, a reader writes in to remind us that the ARG poll has had Bush in the 50s since August, and for the current month has Bush at 57%.)

December 26, 2002 PERMALINK
Dubya‚s Approval Rating Plummets
And No One Notices
(posted Dec. 26 2 AM ET)

The current Time magazine offers this from a Dec. 17-18 Time/CNN poll:

In general, do you approve or disapprove of the way President Bush is handling his job as President?

Approve -- 55%
Disapprove -- 37%

That‚s the lowest approval rating, and the highest disapproval, for Dubya in the Time/CNN poll since 9/11.

His approval has sunk 9 points from just one month ago -- a stunning drop considering he‚s coming off of a big election victory.

But amazingly, no other media outlet has picked up on the poll.

No wire story. No analysis. No pundits pontificating. Nothing.

Not even Time or CNN offers a link to it on their respective web sites. You need to get the print version of Time.

Some other data from the poll:

Do you think Bush is a leader you can trust, or do you have doubts and reservations?

Trust -- 50%
Doubts -- 48%

Do you think Vice President Dick Cheney is a leader you can trust, or do you have doubts and reservations?

Trust -- 42%
Doubts -- 51%

In your view, have Bush‚s accomplishments in office been mainly because of his team of advisers?

Mainly because of advisers -- 55%
Would have them regardless -- 35%

Based on the above, it would appear that:

1. The sense that Bush now has unbridled power in Washington did not comfort the public.

2. While other recent polling indicates that the public views Bush as a „strong leader,š this poll shows that there is a soft underbelly to that perception.

3. Cheney continues to be a little-talked about, but real, political liability (See Aug. 23) -- despite his political importance within the White House.

Granted, these Bush numbers will be meaningless once the bombs drop.

But they show that the accepted storyline -- 9/11 transformed Bush into a worshipped leader -- is, at minimum, oversimplified, if not flat wrong.

(UPDATE Dec. 27 10:30 AM ET -- Roger (the good one) Ailes and a post from LeislerNYC on Eschaton's comment board note that CNN.com did run a recent story about a Time/CNN Bush poll, but made no mention of the approval rating.

This is surely the same poll as what is detailed in LO's above column. Both the Time and CNN.com stories describe a poll taken on Dec. 17 and 18 with a sample of 1006 Americans.

Most interesting is that the CNN.com piece not only ignores the approval rating drop, but offers an upbeat lead, "President Bush has picked the right advisers, especially on the security and foreign affairs fronts, according to a CNN/Time magazine poll..."

Ailes and LeislerNYC note that the CNN.com story does refers to the figures about trust in the leadership of Bush and Cheney, though it buries them in the 6th paragraph and lacks the specific numbers.

Additionally, several news outlets appear to have picked up a wire story with data from the same poll regarding Iraq.

Finally, the original post has sparked a little dust-up between Thinking It Through and Instapundit.)

December 24, 2002 PERMALINK
Wolfie Says: We're One Big Happy
Not Quite
(posted Dec. 24 1:30 AM ET)

Paul Wolfowitz wants you to know that there is no split between himself and the military brass on Iraq.

The problem is, only Wolfowitz is saying so.

The Washington Post last week reported the following:

[T]he chief of the Army, Gen. Eric Shinseki, and the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James L. Jones...members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have questioned the contention of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and other top officials that Hussein's government is likely to collapse almost as soon as a U.S. attack is launched...

The two generals are concerned that the Wolfowitz school may underestimate the risks involved...

Since war is imminent, part of the Administration's PR strategy is to emphasize internal unity.

That's why Powell and Rumsfeld have seemingly closed ranks and muted any disagreements.

But the Post story screwed that up, so Wolfowitz set out to squelch it with his own Post op-ed.

But to convincingly argue that there is no rift, he can’t unilaterally proclaim it. Someone on the other side of the alleged rift needs to stand with Wolfowitz.

Yet there is no symbolic joint byline. The op-ed is a solo job..

And what a weak job it is.

Wolfowitz simply asserts they are thorough planners, without offering much backup outside of a quote from a Rummy press conference and a vague mention of the Defense Dept. website.

He never addresses the key complaint raised in the original Post story:

[Shinseki and Jones] have argued that planning should prepare thoroughly for worst-case scenarios, most notably one that planners have labeled "Fortress Baghdad," in which Hussein withdraws his most loyal forces into the Iraqi capital and challenges the United States to enter into protracted street fighting, perhaps involving chemical or biological weapons.

All Wolfowitz has accomplished is a reinforcement of the notion that the real military leaders have not been persuaded.

And if the military hasn’t bought in, why should the rest of us?

Two other eye-rolling elements to the op-ed worth mentioning:

1. The “Hey Soccer Moms, He’s No Warmonger, He’s a Teddy Bear” Argument

Wolfowitz adds to the Administration PR strategy to convince the skittish electorate that Bush is not being hasty and bloodthirsty:

War is brutal, risky and unpredictable; anyone who does not understand that should not be involved in military planning...

The president needs no reminder about what a terrible thing war is. He has had to comfort the widows of brave men killed in Afghanistan, and he knows what it would be like to comfort widows if there were a war in Iraq.

Sounds very familiar to what Bush himself said to Barbara Walters earlier this month:

War is my last option, not my first option. See, it’s easy in this town for people to commit troops...to combat...

But there’s only one person who is responsible for making that decision, and that’s me.

And there’s only one person who hugs the mothers and the widows, the wives and the kids on the death of their loved ones.

Others hug, but having committed the troops, I’ve got an additional responsibility to hug, and that’s me, and I know what it’s like.

Speaking on behalf of what is surely millions of Americans: boo-frickin’-hoo.

Of course, stressing his “responsibility to hug” is probably a better argument than “I learned about the horrors of war on TV while I was blowing off my National Guard duty.”

2. The “Don’t Worry, The Iraqi People Love Us” Argument

Wolfowitz practically dismissed out of hand any notion that the overthrow of Hussein could produce messy consequences:

One risk that is often exaggerated is the risk of what might happen in Iraq after the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime.

It is hard to believe that the liberation of the talented people of one of the most important Arab countries in the world...will not be an opportunity...to move forward on the task that the president has described as "building a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror."

Actually it’s quite easy to believe, since the world happens to be a complicated place.

As presidential candidate Howard Dean put it on Sunday while on ABC’s “This Week”:

Iraq is three countries, not one. It’s the Kurds, the Sunni and the Shia. They do not get along.

I don’t see how we’re going to suddenly go in, get rid of Saddam Hussein, and then expect our troops to come home, without leaving a fertile ground for somebody like Osama bin Laden to move in.

December 23, 2002 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Dec. 23 12:45 AM ET)
(minor edits Dec. 23 8:45 AM ET)

10 Things About Frist Unsaid Yesterday

Here are all the things about incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that you did not hear raised, by either talkshow hosts or Dems, on the Sunday shows:

1. His connection to HCA, the scandal-plagued for-profit hospital chain founded by his family

2. The conflict of interest HCA presents when Frist deals with Patients' Bill of Rights legislation

3. His attempt to deny a conflict of interest because his millions of dollars of HCA stock are in a “blind trust,” which -- if he knows he still owns the stock -- is not all that blind.

4. After five years, HCA agreed to a settlement with the feds regarding Medicare fraud, just before Frist entered the Majority Leader fray, and just before his brother, the HCA Chairman, would have to submit to questioning

5. His lauded trips to Africa to provide medical services are sponsored by televangelist Franklin Graham, who has repeatedly made anti-Muslim statements.

6. He was accused of racial prejudice when, as a Senate candidate, he asked his staff to hand out unsharpened pencils at an event in a black neighborhood because “I don’t want to get stuck.”

7. He worked to shield Eli Lilly from lawsuits as part of the homeland security bill

8. He was a leading figure in the failed legislative fight to gut the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill

9. A top House Dem has called for a formal inquiry into voter intimidation allegations leveled at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was led by Frist this year

10. As a med school student, he falsely obtained stray cats to kill in medical experiments. (In fairness, he has publicly shamed himself for this. But man, that is so wrong!)

Almost every item above was reported by major media over the weekend, yet no Sunday talk show host discussed any of this.

Nevertheless, the ball was still placed on the tee. Dems just needed to swing.

They didn’t. Instead, we got some tepid criticism of the GOP and praise for Frist.

Here’s Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) on ABC’s “This Week”:

...you can’t have a case as we did...in Louisiana, where supporters of the Republican candidate were sending mailings to African-Americans...telling them a wrong date for the voting...

We have to stop these kind of things, and I think that Bill Frist is one who can do that...he’s going to have support of both Democrats and Republicans if he will do that.

And here’s Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) on CNN’s “Late Edition”:

I am encouraged that he will [work with Democrats]. One particular area that I have worked with Senator Frist is on health-care issues.

And maybe his ascendancy will help represent a breakthrough on things like providing through Medicare a prescription drug benefit. I certainly hope so.

Why so wimpy?

Dem Senators (aside from prez candidates) have a perceived need to be collegial to their fellow club members.

Yet their GOP counterparts do not feel the same way.

In fact, just before Leahy’s remarks, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) accused Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) of “race-baiting.”

Lesson for Dems: Stop being nice to folks that don’t give a damn about you.

(Side Note 1: A good profile of Frist ran last October in the Boston Globe, and there’s more good info from Nathan Newman and Counterspin Central.)

(Side Note 2: Notably, the conservatives at “Fox News Sunday” as well as the die-hard pro-life Senators on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Rick Santorum (PA) and Jim Inhofe (OK), also neglected to mention charges from anti-abortion groups that Frist is disingenuous on the issue, in part because HCA performs abortions.)

How To Handle Bogus Controversy

The conservative media took their best shot at Sen. Patty Murray, and she stared them down.

The Drudge Report overhyped a local news account of a Murray talk with high schoolers, where she raised, not just a legitimate question, but a crucial one:

We've got to ask, why is this man (Osama bin Laden) so popular around the world? Why are people so supportive of him in many countries … that are riddled with poverty?

He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that.

The story went on to note that Murray was not taking a position on a specific strategy, but simply felt it was important to consider the question.

The head of the Washington State GOP went into distortion mode:

It is absolutely outrageous and despicable to imply that the American government should learn a lesson from the madman who murdered thousands of American citizens.

Of course, winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world is a major US objective.

Bush’s answer is an ad campaign instead of infrastructure investment. So far, it’s bin Laden’s approach that appears to be working.

(Some question how much credit bin Laden actually deserves, but perception can be as important as reality.)

The reason is obvious: those in need will be appreciative of whoever lends them a hand.

Al Qaeda is not the first terrorist group to understand this. Hezbollah offers a wide array of social services.

If we don’t show Muslims that we care even more about their well-being, why would anyone expect that they would offer us support?

But the right-wing media network doesn’t let facts or substance get in the way of a good McCarthyite expedition.

Yet Murray didn’t flinch. She released a statement standing her ground.

By not giving the charges any credence, she minimized the amount of coverage and helped shape the quality of coverage.

As a result, none of the Sunday shows mentioned the flap, except for Fox.

Though the big disappointment was not that Fox made a big deal about it. It was Sen. Joe Biden’s (D-DE) weak defense of her.

Well, knowing Patty, I know she didn't mean it the way that came out.

I assume what she was trying to say to those high school students was that the reason he's popular in various parts of the world is, along with the Saudis, they built 70,000 madrassas and they did go in there -- he did go in there, with our help and millions of dollars, to, you know, kick out the Russians, et cetera.

But I think it was -- I would hope if she had a chance to rephrase it, she would change that.

The idea that Patty Murray thinks we should pattern ourselves after bin Laden is not -- I don't believe she thinks that at all. I think it's a very bad choice of words.

Except that it wasn’t a bad choice of words. It was an intelligent choice of words, and Murray ain't apologizing.

Most Shameless, and Baseless Self-Promotion

You remember Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the one that got all mad at Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) for apologizing that he voted against a Martin Luther King holiday?

Well he came on CBS’ “Face The Nation” to let us know he’s no racist.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You seemed...to be saying that you thought during that [BET] interview that Senator Lott was taking positions that many Republicans simply could not support...What’s your reaction to that?

INHOFE: ...Let me first of all say...I’m probably one of the few who...is totally impervious to the title of racist.

I was in West Africa when all this happened. I’ve had a mission there for a long time.

In fact...we found a little girl [holds up photo] who had been abandoned...about a year ago, three days old, dying.

She is now my granddaughter. So I have a real passion for this subject...

This apparently isn’t the first time Inhofe has exploited his own granddaughter for political purposes. He previously put out a whole press release on her.

You can’t stoop much lower than that.

Also, it should be noted that the chronically amiable Schieffer couldn’t bring himself to say out loud that Inhofe specifically mentioned the MLK holiday, making Inhofe’s job a whole lot easier.

BEST OF THE BLOG LAST WEEK

Seeing The Forest on the Bush plan for the feds to monitor citizens’ Net usage

TBogg on losing the hearts and minds of the Iraqis

Blue Streak on the proposed designs for the World Trade Center

Rittenhouse Review has a thing or two to say about Norah Vincent

TalkLeft on the GOP in denial on race.

The Sandbox
Humor By John Cougarstein

NEWS ALERT
Winona Ryder Named Treasury Secretary

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 -- The White House announced today that Winona Ryder was picked to join the Cabinet and head up the Treasury Department.

Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, “Winona Ryder understands better than anyone that just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you don’t deserve that little bit extra.”

Asked if her shoplifting conviction disqualified her from joining the Administration, Fleischer smiled and said, “Have you met John Poindexter?”

Winona Ryder was reportedly eager to accept the position. Spokesman Mark Geragos noted that her government service would count towards her 480 hour community service requirement.

Fortuitously, Ryder's schedule was clear for the next two years. “We were just putzing around, waiting for that Mr. Deeds 2 script,” said Geragos.

For more Cougarstein, check out The Cougarstein Ramble and download Cougarstein songs at Iuma.com

**************

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