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The No-Confidence Man

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, October 7, 2008; 12:33 PM

"We're going to come through this just fine," President Bush said yesterday, in a lackluster attempt to be reassuring as the financial markets tanked. "I believe in the long run this economy is going to be just fine."

In the not-so-very long run, of course, Bush will be leaving the White House. But in the meantime, it's hard for a president to restore confidence in the economy when America has lost confidence in the president.

And it doesn't help that just a few days ago, Bush was essentially encouraging panic in order to get Congress to pass his bailout plan. Now the panic has grown to such enormous proportions that it dwarfs even the $700 billion appropriated to rescue the fat cats who precipitated the problem in the first place.

Poll Watch

Paul Steinhauser writes for CNN: "Only 24 percent of those polled approve of President Bush's job performance, an all-time low for a CNN survey." The poll also found that only 26 percent of Americans are confident in Bush's ability to handle the financial crisis.

Gallup reports: "President Bush's job approval rating is at 25% in the latest Oct. 3-5 Gallup Poll, the lowest of the Bush administration, and only three percentage points above the lowest presidential approval rating in Gallup Poll history. . . .

"The 25% approval rating is one point higher than Richard Nixon's lowest job approval rating of 24% measured in the summer of 1974, and it is just three points higher than Harry Truman's all-time Gallup low job approval rating of 22% measured in 1952. No other presidents have had job approval ratings of 27% or lower in Gallup Poll history.

"The current poll recording Bush's low job approval rating was conducted after Congress passed the economic rescue bill on Oct. 3. Americans recognize the economy as the nation's top problem, but apparently, the passage of this bill -- which the Bush administration had heavily advocated -- did nothing to affect Bush's approval ratings. Indeed, only 55% of members of Bush's own party approve of him in the poll, perhaps a reflection of some pushback from conservatives who do not strongly support the economic bill. Nineteen percent of independents and 5% of Democrats approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president."

Last week, in a Washington Post/ABC News poll Bush tied his all-time high disapproval rating of 70 percent. That's the highest disapproval rating of any president since the dawn of modern polling.

Susan Page writes in USA Today: "'He's already paid the approval price for the Iraq war' with ratings that have been dismal for two years, says Richard Eichenberg, a political scientist at Tufts University in Massachusetts. 'Now, in addition, with the horrible economic news . . . some of the blame is obviously being laid to him.'

"White House spokesman Scott Stanzel says the president is focused on the economy and motivated 'by his desire to protect our nation and address our economic needs, not by daily tracking polls.'"

Another Gallup Poll finds that "only 9% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States -- the lowest such reading in Gallup Poll history.

"The previous low point for Gallup's measure of satisfaction had been 12%, recorded back in 1979, in the midst of rising prices and gas shortages when Jimmy Carter was president."


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