NBC's Today show was full of negative news for President Bush, as it usually is, so it was a bit surprising when Katie Couric asked Tim Russert why the President hasn’t gained from positive consumer confidence. Maybe it’s because, according to a quick Nexis search of Today, the phrase "consumer confidence" hasn’t even been uttered all year long. During a segment on the bad news for the President in NBC’s latest poll Couric noted:
"We just see the right direction, wrong track question Tim and we can follow that by the economy. Only 19 percent feel confident when it comes to, excuse me, the economy and 77 percent are uneasy. One of Josh Bolten's five point plans, as you know, Tim was to brag more about the economy and there is good news. Consumer confidence this month is at its highest in four years. The Dow is trading at a six-year high. Obviously they've got their work cut out for them but why aren't some of those good things reflected in the poll numbers?"
The following is the entire segment complete with both Couric and Kelly O'Donnell repeating last night's spin on Tony Snow:
Matt Lauer: "On Close Up this morning White House woes. The President's approval rating has hit another low according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. NBC's White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell has more on that this morning. Hey, Kelly."
[Graphic: New Lows, Can Bush Reverse Polls?]
Kelly O'Donnell: "Good morning, Matt. Another low. That's a phrase you've heard before when you consider this poll and others. It's really been a pattern, a slow decline, bit by bit, digit by digit and the White House has had trouble because they have not been able to shore up those numbers. As the President honored Teachers Of The Year at the White House a new test result from the public on the President's leadership. A new poll, another new low. Mr. Bush's approval rating down a notch to 36 percent. His handling on Iraq, a defining issue, judged harshly as well. 33 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove. Asked about their top concerns in recent weeks, $3 a gallon gasoline outranked fears about Iran's nuclear goals and battles in Iraq. All issues on the President's desk and soon to be explained at the podium by Tony Snow."
[Tony Snow: "Well Mr. President I want to thank you for the honor of serving as press secretary."]
O'Donnell: "From Fleischer..."
[Ari Fleischer: "I'm gonna do my best to provide it to you in specificity."]
O'Donnell: "...to McClellan..."
[Scott McClellan: "All you have to do is look at the record."]
O'Donnell: "...and now Snow."
[Snow: "Because believe it or not I want to work with you."
O'Donnell: "When he takes over in May Snow will give up his Fox News ID card, his pundit paycheck and forgo broadcasting his own conservative views, some critical of the President he will soon serve."
[George W. Bush: "For those of you who've read his columns and listen to his radio show he sometimes has disagreed with me."]
O'Donnell: "Like last year when Snow referred to the President as 'something of an embarrasment,' and just last month wrote Mr. Bush, 'lost control of the federal budget.' The White House called that perspective and diversity. In his formal announcement the President mentioned Snow plays in a rock band. Perhaps a sublte hint that Snow can change a tune. And Snow may need some other talents as well because like his predecessor he will likely have to talk about the CIA leak case because again yesterday senior adviser to the President Karl Rove, made an appearance before the grand jury. That's number five before that body looking into the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame. Now Rove's attorney says he did so voluntarily. The White House, again, was not commenting on that. Katie."
Katie Couric: "Alright Kelly O'Donnell at the White House, thanks so much. And here to talk about Karl Rove and other matters is Tim Russert, NBC's Washington bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press. Hi Tim, good morning."
Tim Russert: "Good morning, Katie."
Couric: "Let's start with the poll numbers Tim. This has been, no doubt about it, a rough patch for the administration. His, the President Bush's approval rating is down just one point. Do you think in a strange way the White House is breathing a sigh of relief?"
Ruseert: "No they understand Katie that they have to start rebounding and rebounding quickly. When you look inside these numbers Katie the mood of the country is so unsettled. Two out of three Americans say we're simply on the wrong track. The President has to be, address that starting with the high prices of gasoline and that's why you saw his rhetoric change rather dramatically this week."
Couric: "We just see the right direction, wrong track question Tim and we can follow that by the economy. Only 19 percent feel confident when it comes to, excuse me, the economy and 77 percent are uneasy. One of Josh Bolten's five point plans, as you know, Tim was to brag more about the economy and there is good news. Consumer confidence this month is at its highest in four years. The Dow is trading at a six-year high. Obviously they've got their work cut out for them but why aren't some of those good things reflected in the poll numbers?"
Russert: "Gasoline prices, Katie and Iraq. Three out of four Americans believe that they don't have confidence in the economy. And yet as you said some of the indicators are quite good. But when people go to the gas pump and it costs them $60, $70 to fill up their car and they hear the Today show every morning when they wake up, more deaths in Iraq the administration hopes that some of the steps they're gonna take with gasoline prices and the new government in Iraq will begin to pacify things and by the summer things will stabilize for the President's poll ratings."
Couric: "But Tim it was interesting, you mention gas prices in Iraq but when it came to people expressing their top concerns gas prices were indeed at the top of the list but it, they were followed by Iran nuclear weapon and illegal immigration and Iraq was fourth. What do you make of that?"
Russert: "All problems that are obviously front and center. I think Iraq, Katie, however continues just to simmer in the background. It's a cloud over this presidency. I think the President has bet his presidency on that issue. If things get better on the ground, if the government takes hold, troops start coming home people will feel better about the situation and feel better about our country and the Bush presidency. If not, if not these numbers aren't gonna change."
Couric: "I was gonna say Tim, the, the President isn't the only one experiencing low approval ratings. Congress took a major hit. An 11 point drop when it came to the approval rating of Congress and I mean that's quite remarkable, don't you think Tim?"
Russert: "It's amazing, Katie. Two out of three Americans just disapprove the job Congress is doing. 12 points, as you said, in just one month. And Katie we asked who do you want to control Congress? The Democrats or Republicans? Last month the Democrats had about a 13 point advantage. That's down six points. Still more people prefer the Democrats in these midterm elections. But I think it's an indication that their unhappy, that they are angry at both parties and they want some viable alternatives proposed."
Couric: "That's right and in fact, Tim, when it came to why they disapprove of Congress the reasons were, the parties fighting, nothing gets done, members are corrupt. I'm just curious. Do you think this will be a case of come November in the midterm elections a pox on both their houses and people might throw up their hands and not even turn out to vote?"
Russert: "Well that's the Democrats' worst fear because they believe this was all going their way. They still believe there's an anti-incumbent feel to this election, that they will prevail. But I think it's a shot across the bow of the Democratic Party, Katie, that the voters are saying, 'Listen we're not happy with anybody if, if, if you don't like what the President's doing what would you do differently? Give us an alternative.'"
Couric: "Let's move on to Snow in April. Tony Snow named new White House Press Secretary. As Kelly mentioned he's been critical of the White House. He has said, called the President quote, 'Something of an embarrasment,' who has quote, 'lost control of the federal budget,' and is the architect of a quote, 'listless domestic policy.' Were you surprised at, at this choice?"
Russert: "Not at all Katie. They had been talking to Tony Snow for about a week or so. He is a polished, articulate, conservative commentator. He is someone that the President wants out front before the American people every morning, every night articulating and making the President's case. His personality is such that he's a pleasant man. They believe that Tony Snow can connect with the American people and help put a positive gloss on the Bush administration policies. That's why he was picked."
Couric: "And finally, Tim, what do you make of Karl Rove testifying before the federal grand jury for the fifth time yesterday in the CIA leak case?"
Russert: "Well that creates great anxiety at the White House Katie because he is such an important player. The, the situation seems to be when did Karl Rove acknowledge his conversations with Matt Cooper of Time magazine? I think he's trying to address that issue, convince the grand jury that he had forgotten the conversation until..."
Russert: "...it was raised with him. And we now have to wait for the decision of Patrick Fitzgerald as to whether he accepts Karl Rove's version of the facts."
Couric: "And, and, and real quickly Tim when might that come? When might all this end?"
Russert: "Well the administration thought it was behind them. Katie this has to be set aside I would think in the next couple of weeks. Fitzgerald has to make a decision as to whether he's gonna pursue any legal action against Karl Rove or say case closed and focus all attention on the trial of Scooter Libby."
Couric: "Alright, well Tim Russert as always Tim, thanks so much of your insight."
Russert: "Thanks Katie."