Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bill Clinton nostalgia

Yesterday, CNN published the results of a new poll conducted May 5–7, by Opinion Research Corp. (margin of error +/- 3%, 1,021 adult Americans) that asked participants to compare and rank Clinton and Bush. Overwhelmingly, respondents favored former President Bill Clinton over President George W. Bush on major policy areas. Overall, 57% of Americans rated Bush unfavorable versus 40% favorable. Clinton, however, ranked just the opposite: 57% favorable versus 38% unfavorable.

Of the two presidents, who do Americans think has done a better job at handling the economy? By more than 2-to-1, Clinton beat Bush, 63% versus 26%. If you skim the CNN transcript during Friday's broadcast of the poll, you can read a few respondent verbatims. One businesswoman said, "When [Clinton] was president, my business did well and I made a lot of money.... and I kind of miss that." Yeah, babe, a bunch of us Americans feel the same.

When it comes to solving the problems of ordinary Americans, Clinton wins again by a wide margin--62% versus 25% for Bush. Democrats traditionally lean toward helping working class Americans, small businesses, and the poor. Perhaps that explains the whopping 37-point difference for Clinton.

In foreign affairs, Americans favored Clinton by 56% compared to Bush at 32%. I suspect the Iraq War remains the primary factor in Bush's poor rating. A Gallup poll shows that 57% of Americans think the Iraq War was a mistake. Compare that to three years into the Vietnam War--48% of Americans said that Vietnam was a mistake. Whoa! Not so good. Add in mishandling nuclear proliferation and conflicts with Iran and North Korea and no wonder Bush's ratings have fallen into the crapper. Internationally, foreign opinion of America's reputation has suffered greatly under the Bush presidency.

And who can forget Hurricane Katrina and the incompetent management of the Gulf Coast disaster by the Bush Administration? Americans ranked Clinton higher at handling natural disasters, 51% versus Bush at 30%. Clinton gave FEMA Cabinet-level status. Bush reorganized the agency under the management of Homeland Security and shifted its priority to terrorism over disaster preparedness. That dissipated FEMA's capability to respond effectively to America's worst natural disaster. After the latest congressional effort to revamp FEMA, God help us this hurricane season. Bush doesn't have Brownie to blame anymore but Chertoff's still in charge.

The big surprise in the Clinton versus Bush poll for me was the topic of taxes, usually a main selling point for the GOP. Bush promoted tax breaks as "it's your money" in 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Evidently, Bush's tax breaks haven't helped a majority of Americans--no surprise for liberals who had repeatedly reminded us that the wealthiest Americans have benefitted the most. Clinton won on doing a better job at taxes with 51% compared to Bush at 35%. A few days ago, the House passed a $70 billion tax cut by a vote of 244-185. Democrats voted against the package saying that the tax breaks were irresponsible due to record budget deficits and the war, and the tax cuts once again will aid the richest Americans. The Tax Policy Center, courtesy John Roberts of CNN, analyzed the new $70 billion tax cut package and found that Americans earning between $20,000-$30,000 will save $9, households earning $50,000-$75,000 will get $110 off their taxes, and $100,000-$200,000 incomes will save $1,400. Households earning $1 million and up receive the biggest savings on their tax bill--$42,000. So when Democrats say that the wealthiest Americans benefit most from Republican tax cuts, it ain't no spiel.

In 2000, Bush promised to be a "uniter, not a divider." Ha! I knew that was a truckload of Texas fertilizer. Americans rate Bush poorly as a "uniter" with 59% saying that Bush has done more to divide the country than Clinton did.

Two areas where Clinton and Bush rate closely: On the subject of who was the more honest president, 46% cited Clinton and 41% said Bush. Apply the margin of error, +/- 3% and the ratings stack closer together.

The second area, another talking point that Bush and Republicans like to boast about is national security, especially since 9/11. Clinton and Bush finished in a dead-heat with Clinton edging out Bush by a few points. Forty-six (46%) percent of Americans said Clinton did a better job of handling national security while 42% named Bush. With terror alerts, Osama bin Laden still at large, and the regularity of OBL's and his terrorist associates' taped threats, I'm unsurprised that more Americans feel less safe now than they did three years ago. And port security? Don't get me started on the foot-dragging Bush Administration and the Rubber Stamp Republican Congress.

Bill Clinton wasn't my favorite president--flip-flopping on gays in the military turned me off. But he did so many more things right compared to Bush. Looking toward the midterm elections, I'd expect more Republican incumbents and candidates to continue to distance themselves from Bush and his crummy approval ratings. Slowly, Americans have awakened to the train wreck presidency of George W. Bush. He's the worst president I've seen in my lifetime and I'm saddened that my fellow Americans didn't wake up before the 2004 election. Still, I have to admit, I wouldn't wish the mess George has made on any Democratic president at this time. Maybe Kerry dodged a bullet. However, I fancy that America would have avoided our woes altogether if President Gore had been running the show. Hopefully, if Democrats can take back the House and maybe the Senate, they can keep the preznit in check and get America back on track domestically while holding Bush accountable for his decisions on Iraq and foreign affairs. With some Democratic congressional muscle, they can pave the way for a return to smart leadership at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008. Domestically and internationally, America desperately needs an FDR who can lead us successfully without leaving any American behind.