George W. Bush is more than a lame duck president, he's a “paraplegic duck,” the nation is “terribly polarized” and the war on Iraq is “not going to be won.
“The one ace in the hole [Bush] has going for him is that the Democrats have no message,” said John Zogby.
The noted pollster shared these perspectives and more at the Pizza and Politics talk sponsored by the Political Science Department Monday afternoon.
In “The Political Landscape in 2006: The U.S. and the World,” he gave an overview of the Bush presidency, answered numerous questions and covered, in nearly an hour, topics ranging from the Katrina catastrophe and the Patriot Act to the doomed political dance of Howard Dean and John Kerry.
Zogby was introduced to a group of about 60 students by Richard Fox, associate professor of political science.
“It's great that Union got such an important player in the American political landscape as John Zogby,” said Daniel Amira '07.
Zogby, whose opinion and marketing research organization is based in Utica, N.Y., with offices in Washington, D.C., also spoke Monday evening at the Nott Memorial as part of the College's Perspectives at the Nott series.
“At a time when the nation is at war, this is a very strange political landscape,” Zogby told his student audience. “We find a president who is severely wounded, not capable of pushing through a domestic program. Respect for the Bush presidency is extremely low, and our image abroad is at its lowest.”
Zogby examined public opinion trends in the United States since Bush took office in 2000 with a 48 percent approval rating. Using a bouncing ball as an analogy, Zogby said the president's approval ratings initially bounced high, but soon dropped lower and lower.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Bush got his first “bounce” to approval ratings in the high 80s, and “a couple of weeks after 9/11, we find America is rallying behind its commander-in-chief.” Shortly after the attacks, however, a Zogby poll showed that only half of all Americans surveyed were willing to support the war on terror if it would last more two years. The bounce effect continued accordingly, affected by such events as the Enron and Catholic Church scandals in early 2002, the bombing of Baghdad year later and the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003.
Bush's current rating holds at 38-41 percent, Zogby said. These low ratings come “not only from the opposition that traditionally opposes him, but he's got under 50 percent approval from NASCAR fans, gun owners, vets; his bedrock support.” He attributes this to the war, Bush's attacks on civil liberties and record budget deficits.
In analyzing the 2004 Democratic presidential campaign, Zogby noted that as the campaign progressed, Americans changed their minds from wanting “a candidate they believed in” to one who could defeat Bush. “Every day we saw Dean go down and John Kerry and John Edwards go up. But neither man ever goes above 48 percent. It's like the EKG of a dead person.”
Despite Bush's negative approval rating among the American public, “the president won reelection because the Democrats did not offer an alternative.”
In an aside, Zogby stressed that his comments about both Republicans and Democrats reflect no bias. “I hope I'm being equally offensive to both parties,” he said. “I don't want anyone to think I'm partisan.”
Zogby said the top concerns among Americans today are the war in Iraq, the economy, pension and the war on terrorism.
And in the final analysis, Hurricane Katrina “will end up being of greater significance than 9/11 because it showed a system for handling emergencies that was broken” and it began “to raise some serious questions” about Americans' relationship with government.
On a lighter note, Zogby said the eminently likeable Sen. John McCain has the promise of a young Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan. And then there's always the possibility of Hillary for president: “If she can turn disbelievers into believers in Upstate New York, she could do it in Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said.
The president and CEO of Zogby International, Zogby appears regularly on all three nightly network news programs plus NBC's “Today Show” and ABC's “Good Morning America.” He is a frequent guest for Fox News and MSNBC special programs, along with CNBC's “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” He also is a regular political commentator for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the British Broadcasting Corporation.