From Plus to Minus


By Gus Tyler

Published May 28, 2004, issue of May 28, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Bush’s standing with the American people is on a downward slide, according to the most recent New York Times/CBS poll. Last March, his approval rating was 71 percent. It is now down to 46 percent — the lowest point in the years of his presidency

The early high came on the heels of Hussein’s capture. Since that moment, Bush’s rating has been going down.

Obviously, many factors must be at work, but there is one element on which Bush has been counting as a big plus that seems to be turning into a big minus –– namely, our pre-emptive war in Iraq,

Although there are many theories about just why Bush decided to launch a war against Iraq — to control that country’s oil supply, to remove a terrorist threat to America, to set an example for the democratization of the Middle East Islamic tyrannies — there was one theory held by hard-boiled political skeptics. They suggested that a successful war in Iraq would give Bush a double advantage: First, he would be a war hero, like Andrew Jackson or Dwight Eisenhower. Second, if the election of 2004 came while he was still embroiled with Iraq, the people would be told not “to change horses in midstream.”

But whatever the real reason was, Bush strategists saw the Iraq war as a plus for Bush’s image and for his re-election. However, the Times/CBS poll shows a deep, steep slide in the public’s judgment about weather we did the right thing in declaring war against Iraq. In the conduct of the war, the poll found that last December, 63 percent approved. Last month it fell to 58 percent, and in the recent poll it fell to 47 percent. Put plainly, in a matter of four months, the percentage of those who believe we should have launched our pre-emptive war fell from close to two-thirds of the people to less than half. A popular war is now an unpopular war. How did that happen?

The Bush administration assumed that Iraq would be a pushover, as it was for Bush Sr. in the Gulf War. But what followed was quite different.

Bush Sr. decided, quite deliberately, not to pursue Hussein to drive him from office, mainly because Papa Bush knew that to try to do so would involve dealing with a “hostile people” over many, many years.

Bush Sr. and his advisers knew the difference between a war with Hussein fought in the desert and a war to remove Hussein fought in the highways, streets and back alleys of the Iraqi cities.

As it turns out, Papa knew best. When his son landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, a huge poster proclaimed “mission accomplished.” But what seemed like the end really became the beginning of the actual war between the U.S. coalition and the guerrilla bands.

Apparently, what the Bush people did not understand is the difference between “conquering” and “governing.” The Caesars “conquered” just about all of Europe. They assumed that the ignorant “barbarians” would accept their servile station. But alas, they did not. The Vandals, the Goths, the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths and other “barbarian” tribes rose up and invaded Rome. And what they did to Rome is dramatically summarized in the English verb “to vandalize.”

Just how Bush’s decline will play out in the 2004 election we do not know. But at the moment — with Bush in possession of the “bully pulpit,” and Kerry trying to get his voice — the two candidates are running neck and neck. Stay tuned!

Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war?
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah:
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.