Monday, August 21, 2006

Claiming a Mandate, Governing Like an Emperor

Here are the results of CNN's latest poll on Bush and the war:

Opposition among Americans to the war in Iraq has reached a new high, with only about a third of respondents saying they favor it, according to a poll released Monday.

Just 35 percent of 1,033 adults polled say they favor the war in Iraq; 61 percent say they oppose it -- the highest opposition noted in any CNN poll since the conflict began more than three years ago.

Despite the rising opposition to the war, President Bush said the U.S. will not withdraw from Iraq while he is president.

"In this case, it would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales," the president said. "Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster," he said.

A bare majority (51 percent) say they see Bush as a strong leader, but on most other attributes he gets negative marks.

Most Americans (54 percent) don't consider him honest, most (54 percent) don't think he shares their values and most (58 percent) say he does not inspire confidence.

Bush's stand on the issues is also problematic, with more than half (57 percent) of Americans saying they disagree with him on the issues they care about.

That's an indication that issues, not personal characteristics, are keeping his approval rating well below 50 percent.

If the current administration believed in democracy, these results might matter. As it is, Pres. Bush has made his usual statement that he "does not follow polls when making policy decisions." That sounds a lot better than saying, "I don't give a damn about the will of the people. I never did, but I especially don't now, because I don't have to worry about being reelected." Which is what he really means.

So here's the deal. When Bush lost the popular vote, in 2000, he governed like he had a mandate even though he didn't. When Bush won the popular vote in 2004 by a scant 51%, he announced that he had " earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." And when two-thirds of the American public oppose the way Bush is "spending" the "political capital" he thought he had but never did, he still governs as if he had the overwhelming support of the American people. It really doesn't matter whether Bush thinks he has a mandate but doesn't, or whether he might have a slight mandate but thinks it's a huge one, or whether he does not have anything like a mandate and in fact is despised by the vast majority of the people he rules over: Bush does exactly what Bush wants to do, regardless of what people think, good or bad. So if Bush has a "style," that style is not to spend political capital he has earned: His style is to lie shamelessly

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