Monday, September 12, 2005

Lies, Damned Lies, and Polls... er, Statistics

John Zogby has this to say about the results of his latest poll:

In our new poll, every president since Carter defeats Bush. But Kerry still loses to Bush by one point. What am I missing here?

Glenn Reynolds adds:

It says a lot about what a weak candidate Kerry was, doesn't it? It also underscores Bush's weakness. I said from the beginning that he was a weak candidate, and vulnerable in 2004, but the Democrats managed to put up a guy that he could beat. (I was prophetic in 2003: "I'm always hesitant to disagree with Barone -- but I think that Bush is far more vulnerable than most commentators suggest. The real question, I guess, is whether he'll be vulnerable to whoever the Democrats nominate." Survey says -- nope!)

I'll answer Zogby first: the reason your poll numbers are where they are right now is because of the non-stop lambasting that Bush has taken in the press over the past six weeks (really, over the past five years). Much of the lambasting has been unsubstantiated by the facts, and most of it has been unfair. What your poll is really reporting is the effectiveness of the MSM attack machine at its peak.

Also, concerning Kerry, you have to consider the comparison. Kerry's political career ended back in August 2004; the November presidential election was merely the sound of dirt hitting the coffin. What does it say about a political party when John Kerry, an arrogant, immature, self-aggrandizing bullshitter, is the best candidate they can come up with? What does it say about a candidate when he still can't beat Bush at Bush's lowest point?

And then, on to the Instapundit: Bush's weakness as a candidate is more a reflection of perception than reality. Need I point out that Bush's numbers were a lot higher in the late summer and fall of 2004 than they are now? Every Republican president either knows going in, or comes to understand, that the press really isn't impartial. Not when 90% of the press simultaneously declare their objectivity and their identification as, and agreement with, Democrats. How else do you explain the resounding silence on Kerry's war record (he has yet to fully disclose his military records to the press as he promised repeatedly, as recently as last January)? How else do you explain the rush to bring forth the Texas National Guard "memos" supplied by Bill Burkett, that were so obviously false that casual observers on a blog could spot the forger's mistakes?

Glenn doesn't think much of Bush as president either:
Bush is, in my estimation, adequate as President, but not much more. I've thought that all along -- which is why you've never seen the kind of lyrical praise of Bush here that once appeared at Andrew Sullivan's place, or the kind of disappointment with Bush you see at Sullivan's place now. But in a world of goofy-looking yet pompous empty suits, the adequate man is . . . President. And the Democrats made sure that this was the choice we had in 2004.
Everyone's entitled to their opinion, especially someone who self-identifies as the InstaPundit. However, I think it's fair to ask Professor Reynolds about his grading criteria. After all, Bush is the first president since his father (back in 1988) to win a majority of the popular vote. Bush is the first president since FDR to see his party's lead in Congress increase during a mid-term election. Facing a bitterly divided Congress and a hostile Senate for his first term, Bush still managed to get his major legislation passed. Contrast this to the Clinton Administration, their reneging on all of their major campaign promises before the first inauguration, and the stunning losses among the Democrats in Congress that reversed control of that branch of government for the first time in 40 years. All of Bush's successes should go into the 'plus' column.

I also think it's fair to point out that Bush has also made mistakes. A big mistake was not housecleaning the Executive Branch in the manner of the Clintons; much of his agenda has been attacked, and sabotaged, by administration opponents who work in the administration. Appointing Colin Powell as SecState was, in hindsight, another mistake, albeit one that was quickly rectified after the '04 election. However, the biggest mistake (and it is an ongoing one) is the absolute failure of the Bush Administration to use the power of the bully pulpit to push their agenda and to respond to critics' attacks. A major strength of Bush's character is the fact that he really doesn't care what people think of him as long as he is doing what he believes is right; that is admirable in a person but potentially fatal in a politician.

Bush is the type of person that everyone always claims to want in the office: reflective, principled, and more concerned about doing the right thing than being popular. He is virtually the anti-Bill Clinton, and historians will undoubtedly find it interesting that the electorate turned from one to the other. However, he is also a skilled politician who has benefitted from the combined arrogance and ignorance of his opponents who tend to continually "misunderestimate" Bush to their detriment. I think that history, and hindsight, will be far kinder to him than Glenn Reynolds is today.

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