President Bush’s average job approval rating is about 30.5 percent, with his disapproval rating averaging 64.2 percent, according to Real Clear Politics. In 2005, Bush’s approval rating began its descent below 50 percent and he has never really recovered.
Some would argue that his failure to regain the confidence of the American people is due to such things as the War on Terror (specifically the Iraq war), illegal immigration, the Patriot Act, Social Security, Hurricane Katrina, scandals such as Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay and Mark Foley as well as Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales — and the list goes on.
But the answer to Bush’s failure is not nearly this obvious. The above examples are simply the stones that rubbed the issue raw and exposed the real underlying problem — arrogance. Due to Bush’s arrogance, this administration is horrible at communicating with the American people and even worse at listening.
I saw this arrogance up close at a White House briefing for a conservative group. While answering questions, Karl Rove learned that there was press in the room. Upon his departure, a White House staffer announced that the previous two-hour briefing was “off the record.” In their arrogance they acted as if they could change the rules. If a discussion is going to be off the record it needs to be stated before the discussion occurs and both parties need to agree.
The American people witnessed this arrogance in Bush’s refusal to acknowledge the concerns of his base as he stood side by side with Ted Kennedy on such issues as illegal immigration.
Our military is currently suffering because this president is unable or unwilling to explain the real peril we face from radical Islam. This is causing us to lose a war, a war with long-term ramifications, not on the battlefield, but at home.
And radio talk show listeners heard this arrogance echoed through the words of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow in an interview about illegal immigration with Sean Hannity. Whenever Hannity would disagree with the White House position, Snow would say that they were “talking past each other." This statement dismissed Hannity’s point as invalid and was condescending in its implication that if Hannity disagreed he must not understand the real issue. And this, in a nutshell, seems to be the attitude of this White House. If the American people don’t agree with Bush, they must not understand — and that’s their problem, not his.
It’s no secret that Bush is a poor public speaker, tripping over words and stumbling through his thoughts. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that equates good verbal delivery with intelligence, and although this is a shallow and inaccurate method for judging intelligence, it is still a fact that must be dealt with. In his arrogance, Bush chose to ignore this perception. And he is paying the price.
It is not that communication would resolve all of the problems facing our nation, and certainly there would still be disagreement about the issues, but it is communication where Bush has failed. He squandered his political capital on arrogance.
One has to wonder how different things might be regarding such issues as the War on Terror, illegal immigration, social security, etc. if Bush had checked his ego and learned to be a better communicator.
But the time for communication has passed. It’s doubtful that the American people could be enticed into listening to a president that comes across as if he shouldn’t have to bother to explain. Immigration was the breaking point. Many of Bush’s staunchest supporters no longer defend him. And that is sad, because the fall of his approval ratings leaves our nation without the rudder of leadership and we all pay the price.
Kathleen Antrim is a columnist for The Examiner newspapers, the author of “Capital Offense”, and a correspondent for NewsMax Magazine. She can be heard regularly on Hot Talk 560 KSFO in San Francisco on “The Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan Show.” For more information go to www.KathleenAntrim.com