WRITE for ATol ADVERTISE MEDIA KIT GET ATol BY EMAIL ABOUT ATol CONTACT US
Asia Time Online - Daily News
             
Asia Times Chinese
AT Chinese



    Middle East
     Mar 1, 2006
Dissing Bush
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - A large majority of the US public believes that President George W Bush, whose carefully cultivated image of no-nonsense cowboy toughness has been a hallmark of his presidency, has become the Rodney Dangerfield of international politics, according to the latest in a series of annual surveys by the Gallup polling firm.

Dangerfield, a much-loved comedian who died last October, was best known for his one-line complaint, "I don't get no respect" -



the theme on which he based most of his material beginning in the early 1970s.

Now, according to the Gallup's latest World Affairs survey released late last week, only a third of the US public believe that world leaders "respect" Bush, while nearly two-thirds, or 63%, think his foreign counterparts "don't respect him much".

It was his worst showing since he became president five years ago, and marked a dramatic decline from his best performance on this question shortly after the US-orchestrated ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan in February 2002, when three out of four respondents said Bush was well respected abroad.

The survey conducted between February 6 and 9, based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,002 adults, also found that only 43% of the US public is satisfied with Washington's image in the world today, down from a high under Bush of 71% after the Taliban's ouster and another high of 69% during the invasion of Iraq in April 2003.

And, in a sign of possible things to come, the new survey found that for the first time since Bush became president, Iran is the country considered by a plurality of the public - nearly one-third - as Washington's greatest foreign enemy, significantly ahead of Iraq (22%), North Korea (15%), and China (10%).

When asked to name Washington's greatest foe in two previous World Affairs polls in 2001 and 2005, respondents placed Iran third behind either Iraq and China or Iraq and North Korea.

The Iran findings, which come amid a sharp rise in tensions between Tehran and Washington over Iran's nuclear program and controversial statements by President Mahmud Ahmedinejad over the past six months, echo those of a similar survey released by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.

The survey, combined with another two polls conducted by Gallup (on behalf of CNN and USA Today) and CBS, offers new evidence that the public is increasingly disillusioned with Bush's management of foreign policy. In the CBS poll, Bush's overall job rating has fallen to 34%, down from 42% in January. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing. For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared with 47% last autumn. Just 30% approve of how Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low.

In the former survey, conducted between February 9 and 12, Gallup's pollsters found that 55% of the US public now believe Washington made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq - the highest percentage recorded since the invasion except for a brief period after Hurricane Katrina last September, when 59% of respondents said it was a mistake.

Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones noted in an article accompanying the poll results that of the six major conflicts in which the US was engaged after World War II, only the Vietnam War provoked greater public opposition while the conflict was still taking place.

In two Vietnam-era surveys - in 1971, when the administration of Richard Nixon was already embarked on a major withdrawal of US troops; and in 1973, on the eve of the signing of Paris Peace Accords - some 60% of the public said the war was a "mistake".

The more recent survey also found the public to be more pessimistic about progress in the Iraq war than ever before, with only 31% saying the US and its allies are winning.

That finding could bode particularly ill for the administration's hopes of resisting growing demands that Washington withdraw its troops earlier rather than later, particularly in the wake of last week's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra and the sectarian violence that followed it. Most analysts here believe that pressure on the administration to withdraw US troops will grow sharply if Iraq tips into civil war.

The latest poll results come amid growing political troubles for Bush, who is having an increasingly difficult time keeping even Republican lawmakers in line on a number of national-security issues.

The current flap over the administration's decision to approve, without a major national-security review, the lease of some 20 terminals in six major east coast ports to a Dubai company provoked an unprecedented revolt by the Republican congressional leadership over an issue that has heretofore been considered Bush's strong point: national security.

"The revolt showed that Bush's strength in Congress has significantly eroded as he begins his sixth year as president," noted Fred Barnes, the executive editor of the neo-conservative Weekly Standard and a staunch White House loyalist. "In effect, his Republican base is no longer secure."

Bush is also facing questions from both Democrats and Republicans about a proposed nuclear-power deal with India that he hopes to nail down in a much-ballyhooed trip to New Delhi and Islamabad this week. The White House had hoped that the tour - especially to India, which is seen increasingly as a strategic ally - would help restore his image as a decisive and visionary leader rallying the world behind him.

But that image appears increasingly hollow, according to the World Affairs survey, which suggests that most of his own compatriots have come to believe he has lost the respect of his foreign counterparts.

The poll noted that the US public was fairly skeptical of Bush as a respected world leader until the attacks on New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, with an average of only 45% saying he was respected during his first six months in office, about the same as his predecessor, Bill Clinton. After September 11 and the ouster of the Taliban, however, public opinion rallied to his side.

From early February 2002, however, it has been downhill. Indeed, since February 2003 - one month before the Iraq invasion - pluralities said they believed Bush didn't have much respect from the leaders of other countries, and, as of February 2004, those pluralities became majorities.

But the latest poll showed further significant erosion, with only one-third of respondents insisting that he retains respect overseas, compared with nearly 40% one year ago.

In addition, for the second year in a row, more US citizens believe that the overall perception of the US in the rest of the world is unfavorable than those who believe it is favorable.

This belief is certainly borne out by recent polls. One conducted between October and January of citizens of 33 nations for the BBC World Service found that positive ratings of the US had dropped 5 points overall since 2004, and had significantly declined in 10 countries, including European allies such as Britain and Italy.

And a Pew poll last June found that in 13 of the 14 countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East surveyed - the exception being Poland - pluralities or majorities said Bush's re-election made them feel worse about the United States.

(Inter Press Service)


Pictures of abuse spell bad news for Bush (May 14, '04)

Blair's political obit: I supported Bush
(May 18, '04)

Bush's believe it or not (Apr 24, '04)

Bush falls from favor abroad, too
(Oct 30, '03)

 
 



All material on this website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written permission.
Copyright 1999 - 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd.
Head Office: Rm 202, Hau Fook Mansion, No. 8 Hau Fook St., Kowloon, Hong Kong
Thailand Bureau: 11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110