Presidents before polls

Sunday, September 25, 2005
As I listen to the pundits claim Bush is finished, done for, dead as a door knob, etc based on his poll numbers I wonder how did presidents govern before polls?

What were the poll results after the Jay Treaty?

What were the numbers like during the war with Mexico?

Did Lincoln suffer a slump after Antietam?

In fact the tradition of governing by polls is a relatively recent one. Imagine a world in which a president governed based solely on the advice of his cabinet and trusted allies. Imagine an America without Gallup.

It is almost as difficult as imagining an America without mass media.

How did they run for office before televised debates?

I think Bush is a president who is aware of polls but does not govern entirely based on polls. Clinton was the latter kind of president. He went with the flow, he did not make it.

So he wrote the Iraqi Liberation Act but did not liberate Iraq.

He said Osama Bin Laden was a threat, but he felt it would be a political miscalculation to kill the bastard when he had the chance.

Which is the most effective leader? The one who governs without trying to please, or the one who lives for little else?

And is Bush really done for? I think not, but then what the hell do I know?


MeaninglessHotAir said...

Clinton talked the talk. Bush walks the walk. Personally, I'd prefer somebody who could do both. On the other hand, Julius Caesar was such a person and look at what he did for the Republic. I guess we should be careful what we wish for.

terrye said...


I used to wish that Bush would get better at that stuff, but the media is out to get him and so far any attempts he makes to do the PR thing are either ignored or portrayed as propaganda.

They control the message and the medium. Public officials can either pander to them or get run over.

sad but true.

Hopefully they will over reach some day and make such a critical mistake that what little credibility they have remaining will vanish, like their ethics.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

One thing I think we have to consider is that television is a much much more powerful medium than anything else. It is so intensely engaging and the people involved are so good-looking that "hot" media (Marshall McCluhan's term) like blogging will never be able to compete. The TV cameras are able to show a world which is very different from reality, at least according to Skookumchuk, but it became the official version in many people's heads.

The big problem here is that the cost of production and distribution creates a de facto monopoly, We all get images stuffed into our heads which represent a false, created reality woven by a very few consciousnesses, consciousnesses without a conscience.

Rick Ballard said...

I don't believe that I would say that W is not influenced by polls. It's just that the polls that have meaning to him are ones that we will never see. The public polls paid for by the press theoretically reflect "national sentiment", national sentiment has some importance to governance for a period of about six months - every four years. Even then, its importance is relative to the sentiment expressed by a clear electoral majority.

We're still suffering a polling hangover from the constant national polling that was done to keep Bubba from being convicted after his impeachment. The same polling companies working for the same media organizations are now producing numbers that have the same bearing on governance that they had during the impeachment - slight but meaningless.

We can get a hint of reality by looking at the Dem split on the Roberts domination. Not one of the Dem Senators from red states will vote against Roberts. I'm betting that not one of them will vote against the next nominee either.

It's going to be entertaining watching Dem unity disolve if W puts up the type of conservative for which I'm hoping. A Luttig, Owen, Garza or Brown nomination is going to provide some very entertaining fireworks.

flenser said...

There was a lot of vain talk from the bloggers about their ability to curb the MSM, but Katrina showed that the Old Media still pack a big punch when they all put their mind to it in unison.

From what I have seen, most blogs have not even attepted any push-back. In fact, many blogs on the right joined in the attacks on the "poor federal response".

They are now reaping what they helped sow, in the form of huge new government expenditures, and are busy crying about that.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Oh, Bush is definitely done for. He'll never be elected President again.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

To be momentarily serious --- Bush said he had political capital and was going to use it. What do you suppose that would look like?

I could make a long argument about it, but the short form would be "don't worry about the next election, do things you think need to be done."

Say what you might about "slow reaction" and bad poll numbers, if Bush gets his way --- which he has a surprisingly good record of doing --- the Katrina thing will end up with people who lived in the flooded out projects in New Orleans living in their own homes, with every chance to get job training, a new start, and in new places.

terrye said...


It might also end up with the Democrats losing their stranglehold over Lousiana state politics.

I may be dreaming, but I think the media kind of laid the hurricane thing on kind of thick.

It was starting to get on people's nerves.

I wonder how many people cheered when Honore told that snotty little reporter that he was stuck on stupid.

I know I did.

Half these people can not match their socks but they are freaking experts on everything everybody else does.

Knucklehead said...


I wonder how many people cheered when Honore told that snotty little reporter that he was stuck on stupid.

It is entirely possible that a new bumper sticker has been born.

I find the Gen. Honore thing interesting and had some opportunity to discuss him a bit. People find his blunt, to the point, delivery refreshing. At least for now.

A part of this that I find interesting is that when people listen to him they seem to understand exactly what he is talking about. He does not, however, fit at least my view as particularly erudite. It would not suprise me, for example, if one were to listen to him over time one would find any number of mispronunciations, fractured syntax, or garbled grammar.

Yet he is articulate - when he speaks you know what his is talking about.

I fully expect the MSM to "turn" on Gen. Honore, much as they turned on Rumsfeld. Back a couple short years ago Rumsfeld briefly became something of a "day time" hero of sorts due to his speaking style. He cut through a lot of crap and people understood what he was saying. The MSM was forced to bide its time but they have risen to the attack. The same will happen for Gen. Honore if he stays in public view long enough.

BTW, for those who haven't guessed, I categorize Dubya in the same way. He is articulate. If one doesn't understand what he is saying when he speaks it is one's own fault, not his. He is not, however, a particularly erudite speaker.

John Kerry, on the other hand, is erudite to the rafters. It is, however, difficult, if not impossible, to figure out what the heck he is so eruditely yammering about. He is inarticulate.

I find it perplexing that so many seem to prefer erudition over articulation or, perhaps, mistake one for the other.