By MAUREEN DOWD
One Bush did it by staying out of Baghdad, raising taxes and driving down the deficit.
The other Bush did it by going into Baghdad, cutting taxes and driving up the deficit.
But, perhaps inevitably, the father and son ended up in an Oedipal tango at the same spot: 31 percent.
After trying not to emulate his father's presidency in any way, W. emulated it in the worst possible way. He came out of a conflict with Saddam as a towering figure with soaring approval ratings and ended up as a shrunken figure with scalding approval ratings.
In the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, W.'s stunning implosion landed him in a tie with his dad's low point in July 1992, four months before the public traded in Poppy for Bill Clinton. As Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee noted in their Times article today, that is the lowest approval rating for any president in the last half-century, other than Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.
Even Hillary Clinton has a more favorable rating than W. — 34 percent. The president can draw some solace: John Kerry's at 26 and Al Gore's at 28 percent. And Dick Cheney is in the bunker at 20.
But in the new poll, even many of the party faithful are glum. Only 45 percent of evangelical Christians, 69 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of conservatives like the way W. is taking care of bidness. A whopping 70 percent deem the country pretty seriously on the wrong track, and two-thirds consider the nation in worse shape now than when W. took over.
On the issues that earned Karl Rove his nickname, Boy Genius — values and national security — the shift was notable. Fifty percent of respondents said Democrats came closer to sharing their moral values, compared with 37 percent who said Republicans did. And the G.O.P. retains a tenuous advantage on being seen as stronger on terrorism. The numbers for those who think we did the right thing by invading Iraq are steadily dropping, and the numbers are rising for those who believe we should have stayed out.
Many Americans have simply lost faith in the administration's ingenuity. Only a quarter of those polled had much confidence in W.'s ability to handle a crisis; a mere 9 percent are sure he can successfully end the Iraq war, and a paltry 4 percent think the administration has a clear plan to keep gas prices down. (But can triumphalist Nancy Pelosi lift their spirits?)
The Bush presidency has devolved into an assertion of empty will.
The White House blew off warnings from Republicans in Congress about appointing Gen. Michael Hayden as C.I.A. chief. You know you're in trouble when conservatives fret that the military is getting too much power.
If W. really cared about getting good intelligence for his war on terror, he would never have appointed Porter Goss. That wasted more than 18 months that could have been used fixing the dysfunctional agency, and drove out some good officials.
Mr. Goss, the Cheney toadie, was appointed because W. and Vice wanted him to do a hostile takeover at Langley to clear out suspected leakers (especially Kerry contributors), malcontents, critics of the war or anyone else who wasn't with the program.
Before the Iraq invasion, it was about fixing the intelligence around the policy. Now it's about appointing yes men and enforcing loyalty. The Bush warriors didn't want good intelligence in the first place because it would have told them they were wrong about Saddam's ties to Al Qaeda and W.M.D. And now they're still more concerned with turf battles than with truth-tellers and finding someone — anyone — who can tell us where Osama is. (Osama who?)
Even Denny Hastert, the Republican speaker, scoffed at the Hayden move as a Negroponte "power grab."
The general is a Cheney pal who stood up for the White House's right to be unconstitutional, going along with the heinous warrantless snooping. That makes him one of the team and ready for a promotion, or a Medal of Freedom. He will no doubt be accommodating when Darth Cheney comes over to Langley to lurk around the analysts and oversee the evidence building a case for sending bombs, rather than diplomats, to Iran.
Now that we're dealing with a crazed Iranian president, dreaming of nukes and writing an 18-page letter that sounds like an Israel-hating Islamic version of the Rapture, wouldn't it be great if our spooks could stop fighting and go spy on somebody?