Americans fed up with Congress and Bush

Polls show that public confidence is at lowest ever as disillusionment over Iraq grows.

AMERICANS are fed up with a new Democrat-controlled Congress – as well as their Republican President.

Confidence in Congress was the lowest ever in the latest Gallup survey, barely six months after the Democrats swept both chambers for the first time in 12 years.

At the same time, a separate poll showed that Mr George W. Bush’s standing had plunged to a new low, making him the least popular leader since Ri- chard Nixon, who was the first – and only – president to resign from office.

A Newsweek poll showed that 26 per cent of Americans – about one in four – approve of the job Mr Bush is doing. The figure was the lowest since he took office in January 2001.

The only president to have received a lower approval rating was Nixon, whose rating fell to 23 per cent in January 1974 – seven months before he left office in disgrace over the Watergate scandal.

The survey found that the public’s disillusionment with Mr Bush spread from the Iraq war to domestic issues, with 73 per cent of Americans disapproving of the job he was doing over Iraq. A meagre 23 per cent was in favour.

Fifty per cent said they disapproved of Mr Bush’s handling of homeland security and terrorism – once a strong point for his administration in the light of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Sixty per cent said they disapproved of his handling of the economy, 61 per cent disapproved on health care and 63 per cent disapproved on immigration. If it’s of any consolation to Mr Bush and the Republicans, the latest polls suggest that Congress is faring even worse than the President.

Gallup found that just 14 per cent of Americans had a great deal, or quite a lot of, confidence in Congress.

Indeed, Mr Bush was ahead of them by a single percentage point in the Newsweek poll, which found that only 25 per cent of Americans approve of the job lawmakers are doing.

The poll gave Republicans plenty of fodder to complain about congressional Democrats. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NSRC) has issued a statement saying that the recent survey were a clear indication that Americans did not like what the Democrats had done.

NRSC spokesman Rebecca Fischer delivered a broadside against the Democrats: “In six months, Democrat congressional leadership has managed to bring it all back to where they began – at the lowest congressional confidence levels in Gallup’s history – at least we know Democrats can be successful at something.” The Democrats shot back, arguing that not much was getting done because the Republicans were stalling progress on the passage of important Bills.

“The Republicans have been successful in slowing us down and stopping the Bills we want to take up,” said Democratic Majority Senate whip Dick Durbin.

“This is the real story.”

But there was also grudging recognition within the Democrat camp that they had yet to fulfil key promises to Americans after their thumping victory over the Republican Party in the mid-term elections last year.

Democrat Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said on Thursday: “The American people are upset at us, Democrats and Republicans, because we are not getting things done.”

Two unresolved issues have drawn criticism. One pertains to an energy Bill and the other to immigration reform measures.

But the Iraq war – just as how it affected Mr Bush – was also a major factor in the plummeting popularity of Congress.

Mr Reid conceded last week that the Democrats might have set unrealistic expectations of a troop pullout from a country coming apart at the seams.

And they incurred the wrath of anti-war supporters by granting the President a new US$100 billion (S$154 billion) emergency spending Bill for the conflict without setting any condition of a troop withdrawal timeline.

UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS

“The American people are upset at us, Democrats and Republicans, because we are not getting things done.”
DEMOCRAT SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID

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