Bush Thinks This Will Help?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, February 8, 2008; 12:56 PM

President Bush this morning gave his stamp of approval to the presumptive new leader of his party -- but he may not have been doing John McCain any favors.

"Listen, the stakes in November are high," Bush said. "This is an important election. Prosperity and peace are in the balance. So with confidence in our vision and faith in our values, let us go forward, fight for victory, and keep the White House in 2008."

But it's a sound bite more likely to show up in a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton commercial than a McCain one.

Bush told a room full of whooping Republican die-hards at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference: "We will face other challenges ahead that will require new energy and before long, new leadership. I'm absolutely confident, with your help we will elect a President who shares our principles. As we take on the challenges, we must be guided by the philosophy that has brought us success. Our policies are working. The American people support our points of view. They share our philosophy."

But outside that room, Bush's philosophy has been found wanting. For instance, while he specifically mentioned health care and education as areas where conservatives hold an advantage, a new poll out today shows that an overwhelming 68 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of those issues. Even among Republicans, his support is at an all-time low.

Alan Fram writes for the Associated Press: "It's almost as if people can barely stand the thought of President Bush and Congress anymore. Bush reached his lowest approval rating in The Associated Press-Ipsos poll on Friday as only 30 percent said they like the job he is doing. . . .

"Just 61 percent of Republicans gave Bush positive reviews; his previous low was 65 percent last month. Only 28 percent of them expressed strong approval."

A Telling Moment

Bush described himself as being in high spirits. He started his speech by mocking his parents -- calling Dick Cheney "the best Vice President in history" and then adding: "Mother may have a different opinion. But don't tell her I said this, but my opinion is the one that counts." He insisted that "when the history of our actions is written, it will show that we were right."

And the crowd loved it. As Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Gillman wrote in a pool report: "Bush with greeted with near ecstatic thrill. It was hard to imagine that the 1,200 or more folks crammed into the room had been up for hours staking out seats for the 7:15 a.m. speech -- because they spent so little time sitting.

"There were cheers when an aide placed the presidential seal on the podium. Cheers when the binder holding the president's speech was put in place. And chants of 'Four more years!' when Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced Bush, and a few more times during the speech. McConnell sat on his left, American Conservative Union president David Keene on his right.

"It was one ovation after another as Bush ran through red meat issues: making tax cuts permanent, extending the surveillance law, winning in Iraq, defeating terrorism, limiting stem cell research, upholding life, appointing conservative judges."

But a telling moment came when Bush was talking about people "swept up in a cycle of addiction, and crime, and hopelessness." Said Bush: "We know that people can change their behavior. Sometimes all it takes is the help of a loving soul -- somebody who puts their arm around a troubled person and says, I love you, can I help you."

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