CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Bush's Approval Rating Lowest of Presidency
Aired September 23, 2003 - 10:39 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We, of course, have talked how important the speech is to President Bush, both on the world stage here and at home, particularly at a time when polls show the president's approval rating is down, in fact the lowest of his presidency so far. So what must the president do today at the U.N.?
Let's check in with our political analyst Bill Schneider, who joins us from Washington to talk about that challenge.
Good morning, Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Paula.
ZAHN: What is it the president has to do?
SCHNEIDER: He wants a U.N. resolution that will assert international responsibility for Iraq, but the issue is how much control the United States is willing to give up in return. You know, a lot of countries at the U.N. want the president to acknowledge it was a mistake to acknowledge without U.N. backing. That ain't going to happen. But he may acknowledge past differences, and argue that Iraq is now an international problem, and that it would be short- sighted for the U.N. to refuse to help.
ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about the public polls and what the Bush administration is trying to glean from them. The administration is saying it's not in a state of panic, but everybody generally recognizing the president is on the defensive today.
Tell us a little bit about how the public feels about the United States going to war now at this point.
SCHNEIDER: Well, the public has clearly soured on Iraq. Americans are now divided whether Iraq was worth going to war over, and that's a big shift against the administration's policy. And there it is, 50 to 48 say it was worth going to war over. The president gave the speech to the American people earlier this month about Iraq, and I think I can say that speech in the public opinion polls was a bust. Instead of reassuring Americans, it alarmed them, especially when the president mentioned the $87 billion price tag.
Well, today, the president has a chance to try again. He has to reassure Americans, the United States is not doing it alone and that others will share the burden.
ZAHN: So how much trouble is the president in now politically? SCHNEIDER: Well, he is sinking. His job rating, as you mentioned, is down to 50 percent. That's the lowest rating of his presidency. What's dragging it down, clearly you can see it dropping from 71 percent in April to 50 percent now. What's dragging it down is mainly the economy, the fact that nearly 3 million jobs have been lost and his tax cuts do not seem to be generating yet any new jobs.
And while he's sinking, the newest Democratic candidate, General Wesley Clark, is surging, and the polls show he could beat Bush if the elections were held right now. Of course it's a year away. Bush has been losing support, particularly with men. They're worried about jobs. And General Clark is a rare Democrat who shows a lot of appeal to men.
ZAHN: But it's not all bad news for the president, is it?
SCHNEIDER: No, it's not entirely bad news. While people disagree with his policies, and they don't think they're working, he still has the image of a strong leader, and that's very different from his father's image after he abandoned the "no new taxes" pledge. This President Bush, unlike his father, he has the deep loyalty of the Republican Party base. That's what his father gave up when he broke his no new takes pledge.
Now, that's why what the president cannot say at the United Nations today is that the United States made any mistake in Iraq. That would enrage conservatives and invite a challenge just as his father faced in 1992 from Pat Buchanan. So the president is really walking a tightrope. He needs U.N. support, but he cannot enrage his base in the United States.
ZAHN: And of course, the criticism kicking up from members of his own party. Bill Kristol on an explosive quote today in "The New York Times" basically saying until about two weeks ago, the administration -- he said "they" -- believed the propaganda that all was well in Iraq and at home, "but reality has set in," quote, and they are hard-headed in dealing with the problems they face. What kind of change in strategy will we see?
SCHNEIDER: Well, the change in strategy has got to be to reassure Americans that we're not doing this alone, that the United States is going to be with us on this, and that we're not going to pay the bill alone, because that's what Americans are worried about. Why are we spending $87 billion in Iraq when the American economy is in trouble? The economy is still issue No. 1 to Americans. They are proud of the war in Iraq. They think the United States did a good job, but they wonder, who is going to pay for this, and how are we going to get out? That's why the president needs help from the United Nations.
ZAHN: Bill Schneider, thanks so much, and we're just moments away from that very important presidential speech.
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