Not Getting It

It can be depressing to consider the many, varied, and innovative ways Mr. Bush’s failed leadership has weakened America and spread misery in the world. But five-and-a-half-years into our national nightmare, one of the saddest aspects of the story is how long it has taken the American public to understand what serious problems Mr. Bush has created.

Political scientists sometimes point to the lack of popular interest in politics in many West African countries as an indication that democratic processes are doomed to failure there. Can the apathy there be any stronger than it is in America? Does anyone in America even notice what goes on in Washington?

In France, the citizens bring the country to a standstill when honest efforts by the government to jumpstart a moribund economy threaten to cause hardship for a small segment of society. In the US, citizens accept all manners of injustice – from the prosecution of an illegal, falsely premised war to unconstitutional domestic wiretapping – with barely a peep.

The New York Times and CBS News have just published the results of their latest poll regarding public opinion of President Bush’s job performance. Republicans are gnashing their teeth and Democrats are feeling buoyant, with Mr. Bush’s approval ratings continuing to crater in the run-up to the mid-term congressional elections in November.

The poll numbers are pretty stark. I won’t summarize them here; they’ve been all over the press and the blog-ether. One way to read the figures is that people in America are starting to “get it.” I see just the opposite.

The telling question, for me, is this one:

I’d like you to compare the way things are going in the United States today to the way they were going six years ago before George W. Bush became president. Generally would you say things are going better today, worse today, or about the same as they were going six years ago before George W. Bush became president?


Better: 14%
Worse: 68%
The Same: 16%
Do Not Know: 2%

The press breathlessly reports that more than two-thirds of respondents say that the country is in worse shape under Mr. Bush. No shit, Sherlock!

Who the hell are the 30% who think things have improved or remained the same, and what rock do they live under? Even the wealthiest 10% of Americans, who received 100% of the relative benefit of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts, wouldn’t be expected to say that, on balance, things were better.

How can nearly one-third of the people in this country have missed such significant events as the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, the death and destruction caused by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the lies told to the American public to justify the war in Iraq, the religious radicalization of mainstream politics in the Middle East, the nuclear ascendancy of North Korea, the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the continued rise of China, the alienation of good will toward America among our traditional allies, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, Hurricane Katrina, $70 oil, corporate corruption, congressional corruption, 759 Presidential Signing Statements that quietly nullified laws duly passed by Congress, the wiretapping of American citizens by the NSA, the roll-back of legislation protecting air and water quality, the roll-back of civil liberties under the US Patriot Act, the weakness of the dollar…

At least 2% of the poll respondents were honest enough to admit they are too stupid to answer.


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