The president's approval ratings just scored a staggering 26 percent in the Newsweek poll. 23 percent approve of the handling of Iraq. A broader look at a range of polls is no more comforting. Pollster.com's average is now below 30 percent for the first time. The man can't go much lower among independents and Democrats, so now it's simply a question of whether the base can send him past Carter levels to Nixon territory. Nixon only performed worse than Bush in the worst of the Watergate impeachment crisis. How to explain the recent collapse? Some will say immigration. It may well have an impact. But the data suggest otherwise:
The sharpness of the decline is striking. The change-point for approval is April 23, corresponding to the week of the Congressional vote for deadlines and a fund cutoff in Iraq and the President's subsequent veto. It precedes the immigration debate, though that debate may have sustained the decline. (On the other hand there is little evidence that immigration accelerated the decline which was already underway.)
It's relatively simple, I think. The president's basic rationale for the war in Iraq was debunked within a few weeks of the invasion. His second rationale, democracy, is much further away now than it was three years ago. He has, in effect, no rationale now, except preventing an even worse catastrophe, which simply reminds Americans of what a colossal misjudgment he has made. 26 percent is far too generous., I'd say. Bush asked to have his presidency judged on how he waged the war in Iraq. He has got his wish.