The Most Disappointing President

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Tuesday, April 22, 2008; 12:44 PM

No president in recent history has let the American people down the way this president has.

In the past six and a half years, the public's view of President Bush has gone from one extreme to another. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a record-breaking 90 percent of Americans approved of the job Bush was doing, according to the Gallup Poll. Now, Gallup reports that a record-breaking 69 percent of Americans disapprove of his work in office. The same number call his presidency a failure.

Pundits focused so intently on the race to replace him risk losing sight of just how unhappy the American people are with Bush, how dismally they regard his tenure, and how eager they are to set off in a new direction.

But Bush's decline and fall may be the dominant political story of our time -- and one that will certainly be on the minds of the American people as they head to the polls in November.

By the Numbers

Susan Page writes in USA Today: "President Bush has set a record he'd presumably prefer to avoid: the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll.

"In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high for any president. . . .

"The previous record of 67% was reached by Harry Truman in January 1952, when the United States was enmeshed in the Korean War. . . .

"In another record, the percentage of Americans who say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake reached a new high, 63%, in the latest poll. . . .

"By 69%-27%, those polled say Bush's tenure in general has been a failure, not a success."

Here's a chart showing approval and disapproval through the Bush years.

It's just the latest evidence of a spectacular crash. Back in November, Page reported that for the first time in the history of the Gallup Poll, 50 percent of Americans said they "strongly disapproved" of the president. That shattered the previous high of 48 percent reached by Richard Nixon just before an impeachment inquiry was launched in 1974.

In my Jan. 15 column, I wrote about two polls showing that Americans by an overwhelming 4-1 ratio want the next president to set the nation in a new direction.

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