Thursday, May 18, 2006

Polls and Leadership

John Hinderaker at Powerline has the low-down on the President's low poll numbers:
. . . Bush's poll numbers are typical for just about any president at his low ebb. Bush, according to UPI, is currently at 33 percent. Here are the low water marks for presidents from Lyndon Johnson through Bill Clinton:

*Johnson: 35%
*Nixon: 24%
*Ford: 37%
*Carter: 28%
*Reagan: 35%
*Bush I: 29%
*Clinton: 37%

An important observation, I agree. However, I believe the President's low approval rating is primarily due to the ill-conceived Harriet Myers Supreme Court nomination. I'm NOT trying to beat up on the President over the Myers nomination as some on the Right have been doing lately. I supported the nomination at the time and I don't regret doing so. However, hindsight being perfect, it is clear that Chief Justice Roberts was a far superior choice. However, once the President "followed his heart" and named Myers, I believe he put himself in a position where he had two bad alternatives. He could go down with the sinking nomination or give in to the Conservative base of the party. The former was unacceptable, which meant he had to find a graceful exit for Ms. Myers. However, in doing so, he began to cede his leadership position.

Then came the Dubai port debacle. Maybe things would have been different and the deal salvaged if he had handled it better, but he didn't. Again the President was on the opposite side of the issue from his base. Again he gave in. The leader was being led and that's bad news for a president. Once a president ceases to lead his party, his party will only be satisfied with him when he does exactly what they want.

Not only that, but the "mushy middle" of the electorate, which comprises the majority of Americans want their President to be a strong leader or at least appear to be one. If the President can't even lead his own party, why should they believe in his leadership?

That's what has been driving the President's approval rating down. How does he turn things around? He needs to figure out how to start leading again, but not for the sake of his poll numbers. He needs to start leading for the sake of the nation. Besides, that's what presidents are supposed to do.