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Monday, February 23, 2004  

Politics: More Americans angry at Bush

I do not hate George W. Bush. Why am I making such a declaration? The issue recently arose in regard to a progressive blogger who has prepared a fine series of inquiries into Bush's economic policies. During a discussion of his motivation, I learned distaste for Bush's policies can be mistaken for personal animosity. So, again, I don't hate Shrub. The worst I wish him is being voted out of office. And, oh, maybe chronic hemmorhoids.

That said, it does appear that millions of Americans are angry with the man.

WASHINGTON (AP) - In Arizona, Judy Donovan says she feels desperate for a new president. In Tennessee, Robert Wilson says he finds the president revolting. In Washington state, Maria Yurasek says she'd vote for a dog if it could beat President Bush.

A subtext to this year's presidential campaign is the intense anger that many Democrats are directing toward Bush, an attitude that has been growing in recent months.

``I've never seen anything like it,'' says Ted Jelen, a political science professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. ``There are people who just really, really hate this person.''

Fully a quarter of Americans - mostly Democrats - tell pollsters they have a very unfavorable opinion of the president, more than double the number from last April. When only Democrats are polled, more than half report they feel that way.

Further, in exit polls conducted during Democratic primaries, a sizable chunk of voters have been describing themselves as not just dissatisfied with Bush but outright angry - 51 percent in Delaware, 46 percent in Arizona and New Hampshire, 44 percent in Virginia and Wisconsin.

In my experience, people become angry with persons in leadership positions when they believe the leaders have deceived them or manipulated them. In regard to Bush, I believe there was a reservoir of ill will from the beginning because of the way he landed in the White House. The thousands of voters disenfranchised to guarantee him a 'win' in the state his brother governs still have the sympathy of many fair-minded people. Though the Supreme Court of the United States is directly responsible for that miscarriage of justice, it is Bush who benefitted from it. To diffuse the bad smell from the election, Bush would have had to engage in major bipartisan outreach. He didn't.

A major pollster sees a variety of factors contributing to the contempt some feel toward the man.

``They really have a head of steam up against Bush,'' said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. He said the level of political polarization surrounding Bush, the division between Republicans who favor him and Democrats who don't, exceeds even that for President Clinton in September 1998 during the impeachment battle.

``It's the long view of Bush in the minds of Democrats,'' said pollster Kohut. ``He came into office in a way that they felt was unfair. They gave him the benefit of the doubt and rallied to him after the 9-11 attacks for some time, and then he disappointed them in the way he dealt with Iraq'' and by pursuing a more conservative course than they expected.

The anger is not limited to Democrats. Both independent voters and some Republicans express something stronger than mere annoyance with Bush. That may go back to what I said about being deceived and manipulated. 'Business' Republicans who do not share Bush's Christian Right-influenced domestic agenda could think they were misled into believing he would leave well enough alone vis-a-vis some issues. They feel no pressing need to erode the wall of separation between church and state, which is high on the Christian Right's list of priorities. Across the country, far Right led local governments are attacking an arrangement most Americans support by imposing religious imagery on the general population in public places. There is even talk of running the most popular of the batch, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore for President, if the White House's support is not made more explicit. The failure of the administration to sign off on a compromise that would have recognized gay unions as acceptable is another domestic issue that some Republicans may not want to see become a banner they are expected to march under. However, since the far Right has made opposing gay marriage a litmus test for right-thinking conservatives, those supporters of the GOP may find themselves less welcome in the not so big tent. And . . . angry.

As the invasion of Iraq gradually becomes to resemble an occupation moreso than a liberation, and the price tag for it soars, moderate Republicans and independents, as well as Democrats, are also questioning whether the Bush administration's policies there are sound. The absence of any weapons of mass destruction in the rather pathetic Iraqi arsenal has left the Bush administration and its allies appearing less than credible in regard to military intelligence. (Some would say intelligence, period.) The waste, of lives and money, is more grounds for anger.

It does not help matters that Bush/Cheney favorite Halliburton appears to be the biggest pig at the trough.

Earlier this month, Halliburton agreed to repay the U.S. government about $27.4 million that it had overbilled for meals at five military bases in Iraq and Kuwait.

. . .Back when Halliburton was given such a large and lucrative role in U.S.-occupied Iraq -- it also got the contract to repair and refit the oil fields -- the Bush administration denied that it was handing out favors to the Texas-based conglomerate.

. . .Not surprisingly, the decision is now backfiring. First came allegations that the firm was overcharging for gasoline being shipped to Iraq, a matter now under investigation by the Pentagon inspector general.

Then, in January, the company admitted that two of its employees had pocketed enormous bribes from a Kuwaiti subcontractor servicing U.S. troops. Halliburton promptly coughed up a $6.3 million reimbursement check.

Reading the facts about Vice President Dick Cheney's longterm ties to Halliburton, his $20 million retirement package and the continuing oddities in the relationship alone could make a person wonder.

The anger at George W. Bush seems understandable to me.

7:45 PM