Joe Conason's Journal

The latest Times/CBS poll shows growing support of a war without U.N. support -- but a different poll shows President Bush is in deep trouble. Plus: The House has no tolerance for "French" fries or "French" toast.

Published March 11, 2003 4:54PM (EST)

The Capitol, lit by dim bulbs
Americans seeking comic relief in trying times need look no further than Capitol Hill, where a pair of Republican boobs today announced that French fries will be known as "freedom fries" in House cafeterias from this day forward. Rep. Bob Ney, the Ohio Republican who chairs the Committee on House Administration, has also ordered the Congressional cooks to refer to French toast as "freedom toast." Ney acted at the behest of Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, who had circulated a "dear colleague" letter urging this important action against the Government of France, which is resisting war on Iraq.

There was no immediate word about the possible renaming of hamburgers, frankfurters or sauerkraut to express legislative displeasure with Germany, whose leaders have adopted a similar anti-war position. After all, that was how some of our native geniuses stoked anti-German sentiment during World War I -- in addition to burning German books that they were unable to read anyway.

Far less amusing but just as stupid is Rep. Jim Moran, the Virginia Democrat who told an anti-war gathering on March 3 that American Jews are to blame for the Bush administration's Iraq policy. "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this," said Moran. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going." Moran is an egregious, ill-tempered character with a habit of accepting large loans from parties whose legislation he promotes. He issued the usual sort of lame apology, insisting that his words didn't mean what they very clearly meant. Moran is exactly the kind of friend that opponents of war don't need, and exactly the kind of Congressman that Congress can do without.
[3:33 p.m. PST, Mar. 11, 2003]

Poll positions
Today's front-page poll in the New York Times headlines the "growing" number of Americans -- 58 percent -- who say they support war on Iraq even without the imprimatur of the U.N. That statistic may encourage the President, but if he wants to maintain his good mood he shouldn't read any further. The same Times/CBS poll also shows that Americans are deeply concerned about the falling international prestige of the United States, with respondents evenly split over whether "leaders of other countries around the world have respect for George W. Bush." A majority of 52 percent still believes more time should be given to U.N. weapons inspectors before a war begins. And despite the headlined figure, there are contradictory indications: almost two-thirds of the respondents said "Mr. Bush should take into account the views of antiwar protesters." So most Americans don't equate dissent with treason.

As for the President himself, the Times/CBS poll showed a "relatively high approval rating" of 56 percent. That number is indeed relatively high when compared to other recent surveys of Bush's standing among voters. For instance, Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report released a new poll yesterday. Of 1545 registered voters, only 39 percent "are sure they would vote for the reelection of President George W. Bush." Thirty-four percent are certain they would vote for someone else and the rest aren't sure. Bush's re-elect numbers have stagnated below 50 percent during much of his presidency, despite the war steroids pumped into his approval rating. Now they are falling below 40 percent, which means he is in deep trouble.

The entire poll is worth perusing. As the Ipsos summary says, "It does not look like this has hit bottom. In fact, among 781 registered voters interviewed March 4-6, 38 percent would definitely vote to re-elect Bush and 37 percent definitely voting for someone else -- a statistical dead heat."

Fortunately this President never, ever pays any attention to polls -- least of all when he makes decisions about war and peace. So the fact that his numbers are falling faster than a smart bomb have absolutely nothing to do with his impatience to start dropping them on Baghdad.
[9:00 a.m. PST, Mar. 11, 2003]

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