In Search of an Explanation

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

In Search of an Explanation

One final point on the new Gallup Poll and Bush's record low rating on the "honest and trustworthy" question.

I'm glad that more and more Americans have come to recognize that their president is not an honest man, but I'm at a loss to figure out precisely what factor caused Bush's numbers to fall in this area.

Has the president told a great big whopper lately? Not really. Bush almost certainly lied when he assumed the persona of LBJ and used his Sept. 15 speech to wax on about poverty. But, all in all, Bush hasn't been any more truth-challenged lately than he has throughout his presidency.

The infamous Downing Street Memo came to light in early May, but, over the next few months, Bush's honesty rating declined only slightly.

My guess is that rising gas prices, continuing unrest in Iraq and those distressing images from the Gulf Coast have as more to do with Bush's fall in the "honesty" area -- not any specific fib that he told or that came to life in recent days.

As with so many polls of public attitudes, I think there is a lot of air in these poll numbers -- that's to say, they could change significantly over the next 2-3 weeks if, for example, gas prices receded and we captured Osama bin Laden. Even though such developments would say nothing about Bush's "honesty," you can bet his numbers on that specific rating would also rise. (This is the kind of phenomenon that understandably prompts Eugene's "I hate polls" reaction.)

For the moment at least, the public seems to think Bush isn't an honest president. But I would find this development much more encouraging if I thought it was based on something relevant, rather than the fact that a gallon of unleaded gas is costing them $2.93 at the pump.

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