Ross Mackenzie

Try this for a picture:

The nation with a president whose Investor's Business Daily Leadership Index stands at 41, a nine-point plunge since August; Republicans, who, during his presidency have rated him as high as 95, now rate him at only 79. Declining support for the American presence in Iraq. Deficit spending at record levels, with more to come for Katrina recovery. Gasoline at $3 per gallon, and big jitters over the prospect of winter heating bills double those of just a year ago.

General Motors maybe about to go toes-up; Alcoa and others hurting, big-time. Social Security reform and estate tax repeal off the table. Conservatives balking at cutting pork from spending bills to pay for Katrina; liberals lamenting that all suggested amounts are too little. Tom DeLay in the dock and Bill Frist maybe about to be; the Plame-leak investigation possibly moving toward a similar fate for Karl Rove and others in the Bush administration.

The Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination encountering heavy flak from conservatives - with liberals on the sidelines secretly smiling. The left niggling a Bush speech about the war against terror, wherein he spoke of the determination of an enemy "never tired, never sated, never content with yesterday's brutality" and driven by "a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world."

Rarely, if ever, do the records show such a swift, abrupt turnaround in presidential approval.

The principal precipitators? Katrina and Harriet Miers.

Regarding the former: Rightly or wrongly, Bush took huge hits - and ultimately took responsibility for a lame federal response. Never mind that his offers of quick National Guard assistance to Louisiana and New Orleans, at least, were initially rejected. And never mind that his proposal to federalize key aspects of disaster relief, possibly the only realistic answer over the long term, faces mounting criticism.

Regarding the latter: Key conservative constituencies look on the Miers nomination as a lost opportunity. Never mind Bush's knowledge of her work over many years. Never mind that he and she evidently share similar evangelical religious views. (Question: Does rising resistance to Miers from the left suggest from that sector elements of the very religious intolerance it so diligently deplores?) And never mind that in none of his nominations to the appellate courts - or in his successful nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court - has Bush betrayed his pledge to offer individuals committed to strict constitutional and statutory interpretation.

So what is it about this, perhaps the fastest fall in presidential approval?

The ideologization of the right.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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