The Hightower Report

Jim hopes Dubya enjoyed his inauguration, because polls show the next four years may be bumpy


THE PARTY GOES ON

Ah, what memories we have of George W's lavish inaugural gala!

Other presidents have been party-poopers and tightwads compared to Bush. Jimmy Carter, for example, provided only peanuts, crackers, cheese, and cash bars for his celebrants. And FDR's inaugural, also held in a time of war, cost only $2,000 – guests enjoyed chicken salad. How tacky!

George, on the other hand, strutted his stuff with real class – a $40 million extravaganza with lobster, champagne, nine balls, and boogie-'til-you-drop private parties for the lobbyists and moneyed elites. You want class? For $10,000 each, Bush's high rollers could enjoy a delightful inaugural package at the posh Fairmont Hotel, including a Beluga caviar and Dom Perignon reception, a chauffeured Rolls Royce, and – you're gonna love this – each couple was assigned two actors posing as secret service agents, both wearing black sunglasses and cuff link walkie-talkies!

But the "Little People" got to participate, too. For example, your average citizen of Washington, D.C., had a central role – not as celebrants, but as funders. Bush's White House forced the D.C. city government to pony up $17 million to help provide security for George and his well-heeled party bunch. This despite the fact that 91% of Washington residents voted against him in November.

Forget those sticks-in-the-mud, though, for this was a capital event – literally! The stars were not merely George and Dick Cheney, but such corporate powers as AT&T, Bank of America, Dell computers, ExxonMobil, and Home Depot. They chipped in $250,000 each to pay for the splashy show … and to buy themselves a spot at the front of the line for the governmental spoils that Bush & Company will now dole out.

The inaugural is over, but for these corporations, the party has just begun.


BUSH, BY THE NUMBERS

George W., inhaling the fumes of his own hubris, has been claiming that he not only won the presidential election, but also won a mandate for his policies, including his war in Iraq and his plan to undo our Social Security program: "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush recently smirked to reporters.

Interesting if true … but it's not. Sorry to pop that little bubble your handlers keep you in, George, but polls commissioned by The New York Times and The Washington Post now show that you're starting your second term with no mandate, with strong disapproval of your policies in Iraq, and with the public dubious about your leadership on the domestic front. In fact, your job approval rating is an embarrassingly low 49%. Contrast that to the 60% approval for Clinton and 62% for Reagan when they began their second terms – only Richard Nixon started his second term with a lower job approval rating than you.

One key measure of presidential performance is the public's sense of whether America is on the right track. Bad news again: 56% say the country is on the wrong track – the worst rating for Bush since he's been in office.

His war? Fifty-eight percent disapprove of his handling of it, 75% say he has no credible exit strategy, a majority says George routinely exaggerates about conditions there, and 53% say his war will not be worth the loss of American lives.

On his No. 1 domestic issue, privatizing Social Security, 55% disapprove, rising to 70% when people learn that his plan will cut benefits by a third.

George might have won the popularity contest last fall, but his policies are unpopular. This is no time for Democrats in Congress to cave in, wailing that Bush is too popular to oppose. Buck up, Buckos – people want you to fight this elitist, extremist regime!

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

polls, New York Times, Washington Post, George W. Bush, Inauguration

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