I often wonder what it must be like for the president, on a personal level, to know that he's so deeply, historically unpopular. I know the traditional White House line is that Bush expects to be vindicated by history -- we may not like him, but our grandkids will think he's amazing -- but not only is that an odd defense, it's probably not personally fulfilling for the least popular president in modern political history.
When he travels around the country, Bush feels less "antipathy" than he used to in the crowds, along the motorcade routes, and expressed by the individuals who talk to him at his events. "He feels there has been a shift in attitudes out there that's not reflected in polling data," the aide says.
Democrats say Bush is living in a dream world if he fails to recognize how unpopular he is and how much he is dragging down his party and GOP presidential candidate John McCain. In fact, advisers to Barack Obama say Bush is a big reason why Obama's message of change resonates so widely and why the Democrats now lead the GOP in voter preference. "None of this is possible without George Bush," says Cornell Belcher, Obama's pollster.
Reinforcing his point, the latest AP-Ipsos poll, released in mid-June, found that only 29 percent of Americans approved of Bush's job performance, one of the lowest presidential ratings ever. White House officials, by the way, say they aren't sure such polls should be believed because the questions are biased and the population samples are flawed.
Yes, that's it. Flawed polling. John McCain and Republican candidates don't want to be seen with the president, but that's probably because they're relying on all of that "misleading data," pulled together by so-called polling professionals.
And Bush is relying on motorcade routes to gauge public attitudes? What, fewer people are giving him the finger as he drives through their community, and he interprets that as a boost in popularity?
I hate to break it to the president, but there are probably fewer motorcade protests because critics have given up caring about him altogether.
That's not a sign of less "antipathy"; it's a sign of boredom with a lame duck. Bush just isn't seen as worth the energy anymore.