The problem for President Bush is a growing perception that he simply isn't competent .... (President) Carter's political demise began when the American people, including many Democrats, started to perceive him as in over his head in the Oval Office. That's what may be happening now to Bush.Sargent adds some interesting analysis:
... a key to Bush's success has been his uncanny knack for keeping voters focused on his intentions, rather than on his performance.
... The Harriet Miers nomination and Katrina focused the electorate's attention squarely on performance and nothing else. On Katrina, once the nation had been transfixed by the image of Bush's awful performance, no amount of parading around with firefighters amid the New Orleans wreckage -- a belated bid to convince us all of Bush's good intentions -- could change the country's conclusion.
... The Dubai deal has been similarly deadly. It captured Bush in the midst of another hideous performance, again with no escape -- particularly when it came out that Bush didn't know about the deal. Thus the potency of Jay Leno's joke: "Do you know who's in charge of U.S. ports? Neither does President Bush."