Poll watch: Bush gets nowhere with blacks
The squabble between the White House and the NAACP reflects a deep distrust between blacks and the president that's persisted since the election, suggests the latest Gallup poll. The survey shows strong disparities between the attitudes of blacks and whites toward all branches of government have developed in the last six months.
Since Bush was elected, blacks' approval of the president dropped from the 89 percent satisfaction rate that Clinton enjoyed to just 32 percent during these first months of the new administration. That compares with an average 61 percent approval rate Bush has achieved among whites during the same period.
The souring sentiments among African-Americans have lowered that community's opinion of Congress and the Supreme Court as well. During the final four months of the Clinton administration, 54 percent of blacks approved of Congress's performance, a number that has sunk to 43 percent since Bush took office. At the same time, Congress has made small gains among whites, with its approval rating inching up from 51 percent to 53 percent.
The Supreme Court, which ended Democrat Al Gore's Florida recount challenge, fell in the eyes of African-Americans, though the slip was surprisingly slight. From August to September of last year, blacks held the Supreme Court in higher esteem than did whites, with 54 percent of African Americans approving of the high court compared with 51 percent of whites. For the first six months of the Bush administration, the Supreme Court's approval rate has climbed to 63 percent among whites, while it dipped to 51 percent among blacks.
The Gallup report is based on surveys with a three-point margin of error.
Bush job approval
Down from 56 percent, April 21 to 23
Down from 57 percent, May 10 to 12
Down from 53 percent, May 15 to 20
Steady at 55 percent, June 8 to 10
Steady at 59 percent, May 9 to 10
Down from 63 percent, April 19 to 22
Down from 56 percent, April 3 to 8
"The White House has already said that they are committed to move on The Army's objectives when the legislation carrying the charitable choice provisions passes the House of Representatives."
-- An internal Salvation Army memo, as quoted by the Washington Post.
President Bush seemed to return to the White House determined to turn around his sagging polls and make Congress pay attention to his policy priorities, citing education reform, patients' rights legislation and federal funding of faith-based initiatives as his top issues.
That, however, was all before an embarrassing internal Salvation Army memo was leaked to the Washington Post. According to the Post, "The White House has made a 'firm commitment' to the Salvation Army to issue a regulation protecting such charities from state and city efforts to prevent discrimination against gays in hiring and domestic-partner benefits, according to the Salvation Army report."
In return, the Post says, the Salvation Army has agreed to "use its clout to promote the administration's 'faith-based' social services initiative, which seeks to direct more government funds to religious charities."
Furthermore, the Post reports, "The Salvation Army projects spending $88,000 to $110,000 a month in its endeavor to boost Bush's charitable choice effort. It has hired lobbying and strategy concerns to help." Charitable choice is at the heart of the controversy surrounding the faith-based initiative, because of concerns that it could end up promoting discrimination.
So, just 48 hours after golfing with "41" in Kennebunkport, Bush now faces a grim spectacle: A highly publicized anti-gay pact he entered into with one of America's most homespun institutions.
And on the policy side, Bush can't even push his pet projects without running into problems, both to his left and right. The president is reportedly leaning toward the Senate version of his school reform bill, which has looser demands on schools to show progress with minority and disadvantaged students than its House counterpart. He appears to be siding with state governors, who want fewer federal rules clogging their education plans. But in the process, he'll likely annoy conservatives who see it as Bush selling out to get an education bill -- any education bill -- passed, a charge right-leaning critics lobbed after the president backed away from school vouchers to get House approval of his plan.
He might be preoccupied with turning the spin around on his opposition to the bipartisan patients' bill of rights in the Senate. He opposes that bill because it lacks tight caps on the amount patients can sue their HMOs for. He tried spinning an anti-lawyer line: The bill shouldn't be "encouraging frivolous and junk lawsuits." By putting patients' rights in his top three priorities, Bush must hope he's avoiding the nasty obstructionist label, and getting a chance to take credit for pushing a popular issue. But that spoilsport, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., claimed that, aside from Bush, "the only ones opposing [the Senate bill] are the insurance companies and their allies."
Meanwhile, his faith-based charity policy -- despite the exuberant support of the Salvation Army -- faces a new report likely to feed the arguments of congressional Democrats that the bill would authorize discrimination by religious groups that receive government money.
And he didn't even bother to mention his energy policy, though the administration plans to hold a series of town meetings on the issue. The president and the vice president spent much of the spring aggressively promoting their plan to expand domestic power production, but the changeover to Democratic control in the Senate has poisoned chances for the Bush power plan.
With all the difficulties attending his policy wish list, Bush would clearly rather discuss these initiatives than deal with another round of battles over campaign finance reform. The House has scheduled one day of debate on that issue, with members of both parties already sharply divided on the issue of soft money.
All in all, a rough return.
And don't miss Ari Fleischer and the White House striking back against NAACP chairman Julian Bond's charges that the White House has shown "canine" devotion to the Confederacy: "I think it's another reminder why it's so important for people in this town to change the tone," Fleischer said. But he also flubbed part of his response. "Those remarks were not made under Kweisi Mfume's leadership, when Kweisi Mfume was president of the NAACP," Fleischer said of the canine remark. But, actually, the remarks were made over the weekend at the NAACP convention, and while Bond is the current NAACP chairman, Mfume is still the president.
Tuesday schedule: Bush in New York, his first visit to New York since winning the White House.
This day in Bush history
July 10, 1996: Gov. George W. Bush and his family embark on a tour of Texas nature sites to promote tourism in the state. "It's a way to say we've got some neat things to do in Texas," Bush said, as he and his family kicked off their vacation by viewing alligators in Brazos Bend State Park. "I'm promoting eco-tourism," he said. But the trip revived memories of a previous Bush foray into nature when he accidentally shot an endangered bird in 1994 and had to pay a $130 fine. Bush promised that this vacation would be free of such incidents. "No weapons involved," he said.
Bush league: Greens blast Bush loophole
As the Environmental Protection Agency prepares a set of hearings on new power plant regulations, the Sierra Club is once again beating the drum against President Bush.
The latest attacks from the environmental organization and others come as the EPA prepares to examine its "new source review" standards, which require power companies to offset the pollution created when an old power plant is expanded, or to obtain a permit stating that the most environmentally friendly technology is being used.
The EPA is considering weakening those standards as part of Bush's energy plan, which includes bringing 1,300 new power plants online in the next 20 years. Public hearings begin Tuesday in Cincinnati, and will be followed by hearings in Sacramento, Calif., Boston and Baton Rouge, La. The EPA is scheduled to submit a report to Bush on Aug. 17.
The standards affect 51 old coal-fired plants, mostly in the Midwest, that environmentalists say are the nation's worst polluters. "These plants put out as much pollution as major states in the Northeast," said University of Cincinnati College of Medicine health professor George Leikauf. "One of the plants puts out as much [noxious] emissions as the entire state of Massachusetts."
"The issue at hand is profitability and making money rather than taking care of people's health," Leikauf said.
Sierra Club senior Midwest representative Brett Hulsey says that while the EPA may not have much jurisdiction to actually change the regulations, enforcement of the law will be entirely up to the agency. "What concerns us is that the enforcement budget for the EPA has already been cut by 20 to 30 percent," he said.
-- Anthony York
Bush league: The president is out
The president is keeping his campaign promise to remain a Washington outsider, at least on the weekends. Out of his 24 weeks in office, Bush has visited his ranch in Crawford, Texas, six times, and has spent 12 weekends at Camp David, with only two of them devoted to meeting foreign leaders.
And Bush's need for rest and relaxation seems to have increased dramatically in recent weeks. Since the beginning of June, Bush has spent every weekend out of town. He did work on Saturday in Poland during his mid-month journey to Europe, but spent two weekends in Crawford, two at Camp David and last weekend at a Bush family gathering in Kennebunkport, Maine. Two of his weekends have started on Thursdays, and he hasn't been at the White House after five on Friday in that same six-week period.
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Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert, Karen Croft, Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Daryl Lindsey, Alicia Montgomery, Fiona Morgan, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York
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