For Second Night, NBC Focuses on Bush's Bad Polls Yet Ignores Popular Bush Policies
The overlooked poll numbers, as posted in a PDF on the Wall Street Journal Web site. (The Wall Street Journal's Thursday story by John Harwood, "Growing Anxiety About Iraq Threatens Republicans: Bush Approval Rating Hits a Low as War Pessimism Offers Edge for Democrats," also skipped these results as did the MSNBC.com posting by Mark Murray, "Bush ratings continue to drop to new lows; NBC/WSJ poll: Majority now prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress.")
-- 52 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "using wiretaps to listen to telephone calls between suspected terrorists in other countries and American citizens in the United States without getting a court order to do so," compared to 46 percent or "strongly" or "somewhat" oppose.
-- 75 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "promoting the USA Patriot Act, which gives the government greater ability to spy on and prosecute suspected terrorists."
-- 56 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "making the tax cuts of the past few years permanent."
A transcript of the March 16 NBC Nightly News story, for which the MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video:
Brian Williams, referring to the major operation in Iraq and the White House's new national security policy directive: "Everything we've covered so far here this evening can, of course, have a considerable impact on President Bush's political fortunes. Our chief White House correspondent David Gregory with us tonight from the White House, and, David, what are they saying there?"
David Gregory, with "Low Point?" on screen: "Well, they're clearly shaken, as you might understand, politically, by the President's eroding support in the country, Brian. And, yet, I think what we've reported on in the last few minutes underscores the point that, for now at least, the President is sticking to his guns, militarily and philosophically. They may be worried about losing time here, but for now, as one advisor said, the President wants to keep chipping away at the issues that are creating so much opposition. At his lowest level yet in the polls, the President is left to wonder: Which way is up? Iraq, says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, has enveloped the Bush presidency."
Bill McInturff, Republican pollster (and the co-director of the NBC News/WSJ poll): "And no matter what the President says, if events on the ground don't match what he hopes to have happen, he's, you know, these numbers about Iraq will continue to get softer or worse."
Gregory: "Republican leaders have said they're worried that the President's strengths, like tax cuts or tough anti-terror measures, have been overlooked. White House aides admit that a month-long effort to sell ideas from the State of the Union address has been lost to bad news."
Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian: "What history suggests, when you look at Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, with Korea and Vietnam, is that when a President has an unpopular war, until people feel better about it, they're not going to listen to him."
Ronald Reagan, in Berlin: "Tear down this wall!"
Gregory, over video of Clinton with Lewinsky and then at Camp David with Arafat: "In his second-term slide, Ronald Reagan focused on ending the Cold War. Dogged by impeachment at home, Bill Clinton also looked abroad for peace in Northern Ireland and between Israelis and Palestinians. This President doesn't have that option."
Beschloss: "But if the reason for their unpopularity is foreign policy itself, that's awfully difficult."
Gregory concluded with media speculation: "Another option, new blood in the West Wing. Republican sources say the White House has been pressured to add an experienced hand to the staff. Names floated: Former Senators Fred Thompson and Dan Coats, as well as HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. The President's reaction is said to be cool to the change. The other fix, getting it right in Iraq. But the President has little control over that now, and aides deny that today's muscular offensive was an attempt to turn public opinion back home. David Gregory, NBC News, the White House."