In search of answers

Where's the bounce? Who's in Cheney's sights? And what was Michael Steele thinking?

Published February 10, 2006 9:05PM (EST)

As we head off into the War Room weekend, we leave you with a few questions to ponder:

Where's the bounce? When you go to all the trouble of giving a State of the Union address, shouldn't you get a little love in the polls? George W. Bush didn't: His overall approval rating is down a point -- from 43 to 42 percent -- in the latest Gallup poll. Only 38 percent of the public approves of the president's handling of Iraq. That's a pretty pathetic number, except when you compare it with Bush's approval rating (27 percent) on healthcare issues that were supposed to dominate the SOTU.

Who's in Cheney's sights? The vice president suggested in a speech Thursday night that the president's warrantless spying issue should be a political issue in 2006, saying that people "need to know just how we view the most critical questions of national security" when there's "an important election" coming up. Was it push-back against Democratic critics, or a warning that it's time for Republicans like Arlen Specter, Sam Brownback, Lindsey Graham, Mike DeWine, James Sensenbrenner and Heather Wilson to shut up and get in line?

What was Michael Steele thinking? Speaking at an event sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council, the Republican Senate candidate from Maryland equated stem-cell research with the Nazis' medical testing on Jews during the Holocaust. "Look," Steele said, "you, of all folks, know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool." After the group's executive director said it was ludicrous to compare "lifesaving medical research" with "the horrors committed by the Nazis in their evil drive to create a master race," Steele said he was sorry that he'd said what he said; he had been talking about his first visit to Israel, he said, and the "powerful memories" of a visit to a Holocaust museum there got the better of him.

Where's the applause? When the Rev. Joseph Lowery referred to the missing weapons of mass destruction during his speech at the memorial service for Coretta Scott King, he was greeted with 23 seconds of applause and a standing ovation. As Media Matters notes, Fox News deleted almost 14 seconds of the applause when it replayed the tape during a segment on Chris Wallace's show, prompting Fox News commentator Morton Kondracke to comment that the audience "wasn't exactly uproarious in its response."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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