Monday, July 30, 2007

Destroying The GOP's Congressional Approval-Rating Spin

One of the most frustrating things about beating back Republican lies, smears and spin can be that the underlying issues are often very complex and nuanced and explaining exactly how the GOP is intentionally misleading people is a task that Democrats have yet to master. That's why the silly refrain from Republicans about the low Congressional approval ratings that have continued since Democrats took control just six months ago is so amazingly easy to obliterate.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Robert "Mike" Duncan was at it again last week, sending an e-mail to supporters on Friday that used that transparent line of reasoning and did so by almost comically touting how well George W. Bush is doing with the American people.

"Republicans on the Rise!" screamed the e-mail from Duncan in which he all at once celebrated Bush's "rising" job approval ratings, slammed Congressional Democrats and implied that most of us actually believe the Iraq occupation is going just swell. (Bold type on the following is from Duncan's e-mail.)
"The eight most recent public polls show the President's job approval is rising while approval of Congress is plummeting. The four polls that measured job approval for both the President and Congress show the President's ratings are higher.

"… As voters see signs that the surge is working in Baghdad and Anbar, optimism is increasing with more people believing the war was the right thing to do and that the war is going better. "
"The more people see the clear differences between the policies of Republicans and Democrats, the stronger our position," proclaims Delusional Duncan.

We'll take these one at a time.

Duncan clearly got the title of his e-mail from the White Star Line's last newsletter before their luxury flagship sailed, in which they announced "Titanic on the Rise!" OK, I'm making that up, but it's just about as ridiculous as bragging about a statistically-insignificant uptick in Bush's dismal approval rating and using the following graphic to illustrate it:

What really tells the story is the following graph from in which you would need an electron microscope to see whatever incidental Bush improvement the RNC is so excited about:

A picture's worth a thousand words, huh?

Indeed, a July 25, Washington Post analysis of Bush's approval ratings concluded that "with 18 months left in office, he is in the running for most unpopular president in the history of modern polling."

Now, about that Congressional approval rating that Republicans are trying to ride as far as stupidity will allow them… Yes, the Congress has a lousy approval rating, but a cursory look at recent history shows that it's a continuation of how the GOP, do-nothing Congresses tanked those numbers beginning back in 2002.

Not a pretty picture to be sure, but you would never know from their strident rhetoric that it's Republicans that held the House of Representatives for the five years ending in January and that they had the Senate for all but one year (2002-2003) during that lengthy period. So that downward slide belongs almost entirely to the Republican party and the Democrats simply have not yet reversed that long-term decline.

One could argue that a more aggressive stance on Iraq on the part of Congressional Democrats might have caused the bad GOP approval ratings they inherited to go up fast but, even on that score, Republicans have been a massive roadblock every step of the way on keeping faith with the American people and ending the Iraq occupation.

And if you want to see the real kicker on the gall shown by Republicans in this positioning, there's two talking points you need to remember. One is that the current set of Congressional approval numbers under Democratic leadership look about the same -- if not a tad better -- than what the Republican Congress had in October, before the 2006 elections.

Here's Congress recently:

And here's what it looked like in October under GOP rule:

And for real chutzpah, have a look at the fact that Republicans as a group currently have a lower approval rating than do Congressional Democrats, by a six-point margin.

Finally, the RNC saying that Americans believe "the war was the right thing to do and that the war is going better" is just a flat-out lie. Every single poll that's been done in the last two years reflects diminishing support for the Iraq occupation and the vast majority of Americans believe going into Iraq was a mistake and want our troops out now.

That graph, which reflects Americans being asked if they think we did the right thing going into Iraq, doesn't tell you anything you didn’t already know, does it?

But the notion that Bush's popularity is skyrocketing, that the Democrats are responsible for a 5 1/2-year slide in Congressional approval ratings and Americans are beginning to appreciate the merits of the Iraq quagmire is the current Republican story -- and damn it, they're sticking with it.

We're fortunate that the truth on this is easy to point out and explain.

So, to wrap up: No matter what they say, George W. Bush remains about as popular as Mark Foley at a Congressional Page weenie roast. Blaming the Democrats for the bad Congressional approval rating doesn’t work when Republicans own 90 percent of that recent track record. And, of course, the number of American parents willing to send their sons and daughters to Iraq is not on the rise.

Say it and repeat as necessary.