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The Record-Setting Presidency of George W. Bush:
CNN.com has the scoop.
Asher (mail):
So what does it say that, in spite of this, McCain runs even with Hillary and Obama? That many Americans just despise the latter two, that they think McCain would somehow be a real change from Bush... or some other rationale? Usually there's some kind of correlation between approval rating of an incumbent lame duck and how his party's nominee does in the general. Now Humphrey did a lot better than LBJ would've done if he had ran for re-election, but Humphrey famously announced that he planned to halt the bombing in Vietnam; McCain promises a continuation of the policy in Iraq. Do voters think he'd do a better job on the economy than Bush? Do they think he's brighter? I don't really see either being the case.
5.2.2008 2:47am
Craig R. Harmon (mail):
Basically, I'll be voting McCain for the judicial appointments. I don't know that I'll be happy with the appointees of Senator Mavarick but I know that I'll be unhappy with those of Obama and Clinton. That's what it comes down to for me.
5.2.2008 3:13am
Fearless:
I actually like Bush personally. He would be a cool guy to have a beer with.

He is just a horrible President. Not the absolute worst ever, though.
5.2.2008 3:33am
Fearless:
Asher,

I think that McCain would do a much better job than Bush.

Unlike Bush, McCain has clearly demonstrated his ability to think for himself.
5.2.2008 3:35am
EIDE_Interface (mail):

Fearless:
Asher,

I think that McCain would do a much better job than Bush.

Unlike Bush, McCain has clearly demonstrated his ability to think for himself.

Ah, another example of BDS. I bet you have a masters degree too.
5.2.2008 3:44am
Fearless:
Actually, I already said I liked Bush.

I voted for Bush.

The fact is, he has been a very bad President. He has not exercised very good management and held people accountable in his own administration. He has not exercised his judgment intelligently in his execution of the Iraq war, and his failure to do so has discredited the policy. He has not exercised enough independent judgment as President.

I could go on. The bottom-line is that he is a horrible President. An absolutely horrible President. The absolute worst in my lifetime.

I will say this for Bush though. President Andrew Johnson was worse.
5.2.2008 4:00am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

So what does it say that, in spite of this, McCain runs even with Hillary and Obama? That many Americans just despise the latter two, that they think McCain would somehow be a real change from Bush... or some other rationale? Usually there's some kind of correlation between approval rating of an incumbent lame duck and how his party's nominee does in the general. Now Humphrey did a lot better than LBJ would've done if he had ran for re-election, but Humphrey famously announced that he planned to halt the bombing in Vietnam; McCain promises a continuation of the policy in Iraq.


Um no, actually that's not really true. McCain has always been more hawkish than Bush even going back to the 2000 election and was the one calling for more troops when the best that the administration could muster was "stay the course." When the administration finally began to move away from Rumsfeld's policy towards McCain's policy with "the surge," that's when things started to turn around (note I say "started" as this is a long-term process and not always a linear one).

As far as the other reasons to support McCain -- he's excellent when it comes to spending (voted against Medicare Part D, the last two Farm Bills, the pork-infested transportation and energy bills) while Bush has barely used his veto pen while in office for seven years. The two Democrat contenders both thought that the spending wasn't high enough which gives a pretty clear (and finally a palatable) choice for fiscal conservatives this election.

He's also laid out a health-care reform proposal that's consumer-driven, utilizes free markets, and is surprisingly (for someone running for President) focused on federalism for dealing with the problem of the uninsured. McCain is also willing to tackle the idiocy of employer-based care that was created by FDR's price controls while Obama and Clinton want to mandate it by law while creating a new federal bureaucracy to rewrite our health plans to cover what they think it should cover based on whatever special interest groups they want to placate.

McCain has also shown that he's got integrity when it comes to challenging corporate welfare particularly destructive agricultural subsidies like ethanol which make our fuel, feed and food more expensive. It's particularly timely when people are starting to notice that not only have gas prices increased but so are groceries thanks to these ridiculous subsidies that artificially inflate the price of corn and other commodities.

He's also the only free trader running for President while Clinton and Obama seem determined on top of their massive tax increases to start a trade war.

Finally McCain is the only candidate who is willing to deal with the problem of entitlements. He voted against creating Medicare Part D, supports personal accounts for younger workers to opt out of the ponzi scheme known as "Social Security," and has come out in favor of means-testing Medicare.
5.2.2008 4:37am
David Friedman (mail) (www):
Since other people are expressing their preferences ... .

I don't expect to vote for any major party presidential candidate. But of the three, the one I think least bad is Obama. That's partly because I think he is the only one at all likely to reverse the slide towards increasingly irresponsible executive power, which for me is symbolized by Bush's willingness to deliberately and covertly violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, thus committing and having other people commit multiple felonies.

I also think he may be a candidate who could popularize a new version of "leftism," one much more friendly to markets and individual choice than the current brands. For some evidence, look at the views of Cass Sunstein and Goolsby, both of whom seem to be close to him. I would still disagree with it--but less than with the likely alternatives.
5.2.2008 4:38am
Syd Henderson (mail):

Asher (mail):
So what does it say that, in spite of this, McCain runs even with Hillary and Obama?


It says the Republican nomination has been decided and the Democratic has not. It looks to me that the Democratic nomination will be decided around July 1. The supporters of the losing candidate will decide to go with the winner, then you'll see some polls that can be relied on.
5.2.2008 4:44am
fullerene:
I think it says that conservatism is not dead. A significant number of conservatives still support the President. I suppose they believe that his performance must be judged against the circumstances of his time. Of those that do not believe the President has performed well, I suspect a large majority believe he failed to stay close to core principles of conservatism.

It obviously takes more than one failure to demonstrate the error of a set of beliefs. George W. Bush did not invent conservatism, and he will not destroy it.
5.2.2008 5:34am
kadet (mail):
wow, what a thread of cluelessness.
"Ideas," a distinguished conservative named Richard Weaver once wrote, "have consequences." Americans have learned something about the consequences of conservative ideas during the Bush years that they never had to confront in the more amiable Reagan period. As a way of governing, conservatism is another name for disaster. And the disasters will continue, year after year, as long as conservatives, whose political tactics are frequently as brilliant as their policy-making is inept, find ways to perpetuate their power.

If government is necessary, bad government, at least for conservatives, is inevitable, and conservatives have been exceptionally good at showing just how bad it can be. Hence the truth revealed by the Bush years: Bad government--indeed, bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and unfair government--is the only kind of conservative government there is. Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.

Three examples--FEMA, Medicare, and Iraq-- should be sufficient to make this point.

Americans may have elected a Republican president and Congress, but they are unlikely to go back to a world in which one illness can devastate their last years or one storm can destroy their lives. Because government is the one institution that allows us some control over our future, conservatism, which distrusts government so much, is best viewed as a natural counter to liberalism, which, if left unchecked, tends towards wasteful bureaucracy. Indeed, as the Bush administration fully proves, conservatism remains a force of opposition even when it purports to be a governance party. And so the best that can be hoped for is that American voters will do for conservatives what they are unable to do themselves: to vote them out of office.
5.2.2008 7:15am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
That's funny, kadet. Swap "libertarianism" for "conservatism" throughout your post, and you might have a point.
5.2.2008 7:37am
bellisaurius (mail):
Thank you for giving a good defense of Mccain's policy decisions, Thorley. I had forgotten about the ethanol one. He actually went against that when the political winds were blowing hard against him. Given the state of food prices, it may have been a quite prophetic call.
5.2.2008 9:35am
Jiminy (mail):
Chapman is closer to the point. Liberals want more entitlement spending like healthcare. Conservatives want more nationalist spending like the military and prison building. Neither is interested in "cutting spending" unless it's against the other guy. The last 7 years are strange because spending on both sides skyrocketed. The only reason Clinton's Congress was able to pass the balanced budget was due to gridlock. Clinton had already successfully reduced a lot of the nationalist spending like closing military bases and cutting budgets, and then the gridlock set in, and he was unable to get the health care spending he wanted (and Hilary wanted).

I dislike McCain as a candidate, and think he was a brave SOB when he served in the military. He lost his maverick status when he hugged Bush on camera after Bush's campaign made a total buffoon out of him in the primary. However, he might be good to get a little gridlock in the democratic congress. The republicans are going to lose even more of Congress this year, so the gridlock is very important to me, far beyond war policy or judge appointments.
5.2.2008 9:40am
wm13:
It's great the way Prof. Kerr bring items from obscure sources like CNN to broader public exposure on this blog. And his insightful commentary on the item is a huge value added. I sure am glad he doesn't just snark, like some people.
5.2.2008 9:59am
Bretzky (mail):
Asher:


So what does it say that, in spite of this, McCain runs even with Hillary and Obama? That many Americans just despise the latter two, that they think McCain would somehow be a real change from Bush... or some other rationale?

I think what it says is that we should take these polls with a very large grain of salt. At the very least, they are in no way comparable to the polls that Gallup conducted during the Truman administration and are likely not comparable to the ones conducted even during the Reagan administration.

Gallup conducts these polls via telephone. A significant number of Americans no longer have landline telephones, and--unless Gallup has access to the mobile phone numbers of these people--they are not being included in a possible sample. I personally haven't answered my landline telephone in about seven years as anyone who I might want to talk to has my cell number.

Gallup claims that they have made adjustments in their methodology to account for this issue--and the issue of people with Caller ID not answering. I doubt, though, that they are getting a truly representative sample. The sample has to skew older and poorer than the average American, two groups which are generally not favorable to Republicans.

Don't get me wrong, I think Bush's numbers are in the tank, but I seriously doubt that they are as low as Nixon's was in the summer of '74. I think the actual number is somewhere around 35 percent. In terms of the relevance to McCain's numbers, I can anecdotally say that McCain is just more popular amongst the people that I know than Bush is. There's a general sentiment, I think, that McCain is not a "typical" Republican, which wins him some points from independents and Reagan Democrats. And Republicans, regardless of what they claimed earlier in the year, are now largely behind McCain.
5.2.2008 10:58am
Boynton Cousin:
The sample has to skew older and poorer than the average American, two groups which are generally not favorable to Republicans.

Really, you believe that people age 18-30 who have cellphones instead of landlines are more likely to be pro-Bush than older folks? Did you see Orin Kerr's earlier post about party identification among Gen-Y? I can understand putting a pinky on the scale to yield a result more to your liking, but yikes, that's like putting your whole arm down.
5.2.2008 1:54pm
josh:
Asher asks "So what does it say that, in spite of this, McCain runs even with Hillary and Obama? That many Americans just despise the latter two, that they think McCain would somehow be a real change from Bush... or some other rationale?"

I think it says that Obama and Clinton are in a heated primary and McCain has his tied up. Once we get to the general, whoever is the Dem nominee, McCain will no longer be running even with the Dem nominee. His numbers will slide when the focus is placed on his policies and positions, which are inexplicably tied to the policies and positions of one of the country's least popular presidents.

That is not to support or denounce those positions. It's just a fact that this poll shows 71% disfavor Bush, and other polls show similar disapproval of the Iraq War. Right now, the focus is on Wright, Ayers, sniper fire in Bosnia, etc. When it comes to the general election, and the issues are fairly presented, the same trends of the polls will play out.
5.2.2008 2:57pm
Asher (mail):

Um no, actually that's not really true. McCain has always been more hawkish than Bush even going back to the 2000 election and was the one calling for more troops
...

So you're saying voters prefer McCain to Bush because he's more of a hawk? Seems mighty counterintuitive.
5.2.2008 3:56pm
Wahoowa:
I wonder if Bush takes comfort in the fact that he's in rare territory with Truman. Harry S Truman was a very unpopular man in his time but has been vindicated relatively well by history.

Of course, Nixon's in that range too and he's still pretty universally despised.
5.2.2008 4:05pm
Smokey:
Of course, Nixon's in that range too and he's still pretty universally despised.
Interesting point. Note that Nixon was crucified for the Watergate break-in, which was done by some low level people, who very rarely met with Nixon - and who certainly wouldn't have used their extremely valuable face time with the president to discuss such mundane matters. The operatives themselves stated that the break-in was instigated by John Dean to retrieve his prostitute-wife Maureen's "little black book" of clients, which she had inadvertently left during a visit to the Dem HQ.

Furthermore, it has been widely documented that Woodward &Bernstein's book, All The President's Men, is filled with inconsistencies presented as absolute fact, which were physically impossible. W&B were simply lying throughout much of their book.

Which brings me [finally, I know] to point: Obama repeatedly complains that people associate him with people like the verminous Ayres and Dohrn, because their murderous acts occurred when Obama was much younger.

Obama's ethically-blind supporters agree -- but they are the same people who would never give Nixon the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the actions of others.
5.2.2008 5:07pm
Boynton Cousin:
You try to justify the Watergate break-in and you call other people ethically blind? Jesus. Where does the buck stop, again?
5.2.2008 9:18pm
Smokey:
Boynton Cousin:

I was pointing out hypocrisy. Try reading it again.
5.3.2008 12:02am
Josh644:
Coming at this from the McCain side, I see a lot of Democratic wishful thinking in here. Sure Bush is unpopular due to his incredible bungling of nearly everything, but McCain is not Bush. Furthermore, Democrats would do well to remember that the primary motivator for voting Americans is self-interest. Hillary and Obama have vowed to wreck the economy; McCain has suggested improving it. This hasn't always swayed the electorate but during a recession it should not be ignored.
5.3.2008 12:44am
Boynton Cousin:
Right, you weren't trying to justify the break-in or say that Nixon had no role in it. No sir.

As head of the administration, Nixon was most definitely responsible for the actions of those who worked under him, and the attempted cover-up that followed certainly demonstrates that he believed he was. Were Dohrn and Ayers in Obama's employ when the latter was a kid? (Who did either D or A murder, btw?)
5.3.2008 1:20am
LM (mail):
Smokey,

Note that Nixon was crucified for the Watergate break-in, which was done by some low level people, who very rarely met with Nixon - and who certainly wouldn't have used their extremely valuable face time with the president to discuss such mundane matters.

Umm, no. Nixon was crucified for the cover up, his perpetration of which he was thoughtful enough to record for our listening disgust. Or did I (and everyone else with a television) just have Nixon Derangement Syndrome?
5.3.2008 5:33am
Smokey:
LM:

Agreed, you are right, it was the coverup. My point was different, though. As I demonstrated, Obama to this day would still be playing kissy-face with the likes of Ayers, Rezko, Wright, etc., if it were still convenient. If you have any proof that Nixon was told by John Dean's burglars what they had done before it became public, I would certainly be happy to listen.

Maybe I'm mistaken, and you are willing to give Nixon a pass on the actions of others -- in which case Nixon's crime was only one of excessive loyalty, just like Obama.

As for Boynton Cousin -- who has been desperately attempting to re-frame the argument so it suits him -- I prefer not to match wits with an unarmed person. It just isn't fair to him.
5.3.2008 1:31pm
Boynton Cousin:
Oh man, you got me, Smokey. I bow down to your superior use of cliche.
5.3.2008 4:15pm
LM (mail):
Smokey,

I never held Nixon responsible for the burglary. Only the cover-up. And I never held Nixon responsible for knowing the burglars. I don't believe in guilt by association. But I'd hardly call his part in the cover-up "excessive loyalty." It was neither that selfless nor that innocuous. And it bears no resemblance to Obama's erstwhile refusal to disown Wright, an actual example of excessive loyalty.
5.3.2008 5:03pm