Bill Murchison

What I've always wondered, reading those polls asking whether the nation is headed in "the right direction," is why anyone with a kindergarten education believes such polls tell us anything worth knowing.

 Let's see: the "right direction" as opposed to "the wrong direction"? Doubtless we're always in favor of that. Right direction on what, though? War, peace, the World Series, tomorrow's weather?

 Into the impromptu judgments for which pollsters reach, respondents pour a million irritations, satisfactions, itches and hopes. These the pollsters in turn pour over the incumbent president's head -- as if an individual statesman had the power to make life blissful or otherwise for the generality of us.

 In other words, let us contemplate with caution the new polls showing George W. Bush in hot water with the sovereign voters.

 Behold the price of democracy. It's a universal truth that the demos -- the people -- can change their minds overnight when they happen to be paying attention. Then change them back again. It all depends on what's happening when the question gets asked: Is the country going in the right direction?

 A corollary question might be put: When has the country ever gone in just the right direction? That doesn't deal, even so, with the reality that large numbers of Americans profess to be ticked off with George Bush. When you want things to go in the right direction, you hate hearing about Iraqi bombings, winter heating bills, hurricane victims, the New Orleans cleanup, divisions over Harriet Miers, and now, the possibility of a pandemic. Just what we need -- a pandemic.

 A lot of the problem has to do with our national training: We not only expect the pursuit of happiness to end in success, but we think when it doesn't it must be the president's fault. Television, with its 60-minute solutions to human difficulties (except, of course, those on "Lost") stokes our impatience. Upon that impatience the Internet works furiously. I have not yet decided whether the omnipresence of bloggers, and of their opinions on everything, contributes to our weal or our vexation. Sometimes it makes sense just to keep quiet and wait for events to shake out instead of declaring dogmatically that thus-and-so is how it is.

 Regarding those dreary Bush polls -- Country Going in the Wrong Direction, the prez himself at less than 40 percent support -- I have a single point to make. It is ... well, maybe; and also ... maybe not.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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