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Bush's Disapproval Hits Rare Heights; Only Nixon and Truman Scored Worse

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Bush’s Disapproval Hits Rare Heights; Only Nixon and Truman Scored Worse       With 18 months left in office, President Bush he is close to achieving the dubious goal of being the most unpopular president in the history of polling. A recent Washington Post-ABC News survey shows that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance. In polls going back to 1938, only two Presidents have exceeded Bush’s level of public hostility – Harry Truman, at 67 percent during the Korean War, and Richard Nixon, a 66 percent four days before he resigned.     However, Bush is doing just one thing right, as far as I am concerned, in appointing a new powerful committee to sharply examine the on going problems with imported food safety. For several years, I have tried to achieve a similar council in New Mexico through legislation, a Nutrition Council perhaps more focused on the inherent domestic problems from FDA approved products and the USA’s junk food industry. At first, this idea was met with catastrophic indifference from New Mexico Legislators who naively saw no need for such a Council. At the same time, starting in 1999, I pitched a simultaneous effort to get junk food out of the schools, the merits of which they seemed to accept; one third of the New Mexico Senate wished to actually sign on as co-sponsors. Yet, it took 8 years of hammering lobbyists, talking to Interim Committees, and discussing the gigantic threats to all children’s health to get this accomplished; now, most of it seems to have come to pass, thanks to the better-late-than-never support of Governor Bill Richardson. We still have no Nutrition Council. Richardson told me on June 1, 2005, that he might just as well appoint one by Executive Order, which is precisely what the unpopular George Bush just did very recently, by Executive Order! The Federal level council is chaired by Health Secretary Michael Leavitt, and includes the appropriate Cabinet members, or their designees, and will be called the Working Group on Import Safety.      Food and Drug Administration's monitoring of the food supply has been harshly criticized for screamingly obvious  reasons, after a plethora of  food borne illness, including E. coli-tainted spinach and salmonella-contaminated peanut butter and snack foods, as well as concerns about drug-laced, farmed fish imported from China and poisonous melamine in pet food. Bush took this action after China executed its former FDA head for taking bribes resulting in fake medicines killing 8 people, comparatively small change compared to some of the USA FDA’s screw-ups, and as China announced that food safety officials from the U.S. and China would meet in Beijing at the end of July to discuss seafood. FDA announced in June that it would detain Chinese catfish as well as shrimp and eel after testing proved contamination with drugs unapproved by United States for use in farmed seafood.    'There is, unfortunately, still a pattern of substandard products that continue to be shipped to the U.S.,' Dr. Murray Lumpkin, deputy FDA commissioner for international and special programs, told members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee recently. 'Of all the countries in the Asia-Pacific regions, China presents the most diverse set of challenges. Sen. Sherrod Brown said the creation of the panel will not address the problem. 'Establishing a product safety panel is like stamping out a single leaf in a forest fire,' said Brown, D-Ohio, who called for a broader look at trade issues. Sen. Mark Pryor, the Arkansas Democrat who chaired the Senate hearing, was appropriately skeptical about this president's executive order, saying it was more important to adequately fund existing agencies than create a study group. 'We need to have oversight of our marketplace,' said Pryor. 'I don't know if you need another panel looking at this.' I however, as New Mexico’s fiercest FDA critic, am willing to give the Council a chance to make long over due recommendations, which really should also be focused on American products as well as those imported from other nations, as well as reiterate my now public request of Governor Richardson that he go ahead and appoint Nutrition Council, lobbyists be damned. Richardson just might appoint a Nutrition Council, if you will only take the time to write to him to encourage him to do so!     Fortunately for the world, except for Iraq, Bush’s plummeting public standing has see-sawed his White House effectiveness, ravaged his clout, disdained his advisers and sent some of them packing, galvanized his enemies and essentially ruined his “legacy,” which history will prove as far worse than Truman’s or Nixon’s legacy.  Outside the White House, former aides express bitterness at Bush and the fate of his presidency. Bush has been so down for so long that some advisers express that it “looks like up to them,” which at times can be liberating. In a pathetic and tortured fashion, Bush does what he thinks is right with no regard to political cost, no matter how disastrous it will turn out to be, as in sending more U.S. troops to Iraq and commuting "Scooter" Libby’s sentence, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff. With his immigration overhaul proposal dead, his last ditch legislative hopes are to save his No Child Left Behind education program and to fend off attempts to force him to change course in Iraq. The strategy is to fend off Congress and to look strong by vetoing spending bills.    Bush’s low public image has paralleled the disenchantment with the Iraq war. Analysts believe that war supporters deserted him because of his plan to open the door to legalizing illegal immigrants. "You can do an unpopular war or you can do an unpopular immigration policy," according to David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter. "But not both!" Many presidents over the past 70 years have faced greater crises without falling so far in the public perception. Vietnam claimed far more American lives than Iraq, the Iranian hostage crisis made the United States seem impotent, race riots tore the nation apart, oil embargoes forced drivers to wait for hours to fill their tanks; the every present but illusory arms race hovered over us, making the Soviets appear to threaten our survival. What is the problem then now, in 2007? The economy isn’t really so bad; Iraq is not killing as many Americans as Vietnam did. The Internet, especially hostile blog commentaries and more vigorous media in general take a part in changing Bush’s perception; disapproval of Bush is broad as well as deep; 52 percent of Americans "strongly" disapprove of his performance and 28 percent describe themselves as "angry." Lyndon B. Johnson at the height of Vietnam had the disapproval of 52 percent of the public. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Ford never had disapproval ratings reach a low of 50%. Bush has endured bad numbers longer than Nixon or his father did and longer than anyone other than Truman. His disapproval rating has topped 50 percent for more than two years. Although Truman reached 67 percent and 65 percent once each within a month-long period, Bush has hit his high three times in the past 14 months. More than half disapprove of Congress, and Democrats in particular, in the latest Post-ABC survey, though their ratings were nevertheless better than Bush's.    The hostility to Bush has fueled grass-roots support for impeachment, like the one that advanced so far in the New Mexico Legislature in 2007, ultimately defeated by a procedural move by the Republican Minority Leader for which the Democrats were not prepared, and then corroborated the next day by middle of the road Democrat Leadership in the Senate, which most certainly feared a complete breakdown into partisan hostilities. Congressional Democrats have resisted impeachment considerations, recalling the acrimonious division when a Republican Congress impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton’s public support at the worst of all of his philandering problems never tumbled as far as Bush's. This stems, I believe, from the fact that Americans deep down recognize the unacceptable Bush Grudge match and corporate manipulations by Halliburton and others which have propelled the US into the Iraq disaster. Clinton's worst disapproval rating, 51 percent, came during his first term, and he soared to his highest approval rating days after the Lewinsky scandal broke!     Pat Caddell, Jimmy Carter's pollster, said this about the White House collapse in the polls: "Awful. People start going through the motions; the energy is gone." That is most certainly a long overdue and most welcome direction for George Bush in his remaining days as President.            
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