We spend a lot of our time wondering what the 60 percent of the American people who disapprove of George W. Bush's job performance now were thinking on Election Day a year ago. Yes, there's more evidence of administration ineptitude now than there was in November 2004. An additional 900 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since then. The administration has flubbed an attempt to reform Social Security, bumbled its way through a natural disaster and stumbled on a Supreme Court nomination since then. And, of course, the chief of staff to the vice president has been indicted since then.
But still. Fifty-one percent of the people who went to the polls in November 2004 voted for Bush, yet only about 40 percent of the public approves of his job performance now. Some of the difference stems from the polling sample. Anyone who answers the phone gets his or her vote counted in an opinion poll. On Election Day, the only votes that count -- at least most of the time -- are the ones that are cast. Some portion of the president's 60 percent disapproval rating must be coming from people who are so disgusted with the entire operation that they didn't bother to vote last November at all.
But that's not the whole picture. As we noted the other day, a recent Fox News poll showed that 6 percent of the people who voted for Bush in 2004 would vote for Kerry if they had to do it all over again. What were they thinking then? What are they thinking now? Did they undergo some sort of gradual change of heart, or was there some single epiphanic moment in which they changed their minds?
These are the questions we keep pondering, and someday we'll park ourselves out in front of a Wal-Mart in Ohio or Florida or New Mexico or Nevada and start asking people as they come and go. In the meantime, the country has three years and two months more of George W. Bush ahead of it, and the New York Times is wondering how the world is going to survive. "After President Bush's disastrous visit to Latin America, it's unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run," the paper says in an editorial today. "An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long."
The Times says the problem is the president. He won't come to terms with the crisis in Iraq, he won't come clean on the CIA leak, and he flailed -- in an uninterested sort of way -- on his trip to Latin America. The solution? The Times says it starts with Dick Cheney, or at least the marginalization of him.
Noting that the vice president is the "dark force" behind many of the administration's "most disastrous policies" and seems to be devoting all of his time now to fighting off restrictions on the right of the CIA to torture detainees, the Times says it's time for Bush to start making Cheney busy with more funerals and government studies. "Mr. Bush would still have to turn his administration around," the Times says, "but it would at least send a signal to the nation and the world that he was in charge, and the next three years might not be as dreadful as they threaten to be right now."
There's another road map for change, of course: In a Zogby poll commissioned last month by the group AfterDowningStreet.org, 53 percent of Americans said Congress should consider impeaching Bush if he did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war. As we've said before, impeachment is a fantasy so long as Republicans control Congress and probably even if Democrats take control in 2006. But at least some progressives are taking small steps to change that. A new political action committee that plans to support Congressional candidates who favor impeachment says it raised more than $21,000 in its first weekend of existence.