Column: Fair weather nation

By Dan Mollison

On Sept. 11, 2005, it was reported in an AP-Ipsos poll that President Bush’s approval rating has dropped below 40 percent. That’s the lowest in the poll’s history, and less than half Bush’s approval rating during the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks four years ago.

To understand why Bush’s job approval is down in the dumps, the media has offered us a few possible explanations. One is his handling of the Hurricane Katrina crisis, which has triggered a field day among news programs. The misguided efforts of FEMA have caused those who have followed the tragedy to reflect on what could have been done better. Another possible cause of Bush’s ratings drop is soaring gas prices: seven out of 10 Americans reported that they are unhappy with Bush’s stance on dealing with the gas situation. Offering a laundry list of recent national troubles in explanation of Bush’s disapproval might help to sell newspapers, but I believe the media’s explanation is inaccurate.

The real cause of Bush’s woes is that America is a fair-weather nation. And now that we’re in a time of struggle, many are all too prepared to point their finger toward the man at the top. I urge Americans to give our national situation a closer look.

The most recent cries against Bush have been regarding his approach to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, and perhaps rightfully so. I was angered and saddened when I heard that Bush was attending publicity events while thousands were dying in New Orleans. But it just didn’t make sense to me. Bush may lack a few traits you’d want in a president, but humanity isn’t one of them. I don’t agree with everything the President does, but I do know that he cares deeply for our country and tries hard to do what he feels is best for it.

A Sept. 11 conversation aired on NBC with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin shed some light on Bush’s inaction. When asked how he felt about Bush’s response to Katrina, Nagin replied, “I think the president … did not understand the full magnitude of this catastrophe on the front end … anytime I talked with him … he made things happen.” Bush can hardly be blamed for not acting on incorrect intelligence. And when he did hear directly from the mayor, the President did what it took to get the job done. What more could you ask for in a leader?

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Another current complaint of the American people is the rising gas prices. With gas soaring above three dollars a gallon, many have been questioning why President Bush hasn’t acted to bail us out. To be honest, I don’t know how pulling economic strings would affect the economy or governmental budgets, but I do know that before Katrina, gas prices were at a historically normal level. Reporters have been lamenting for years that gas prices have been increasing to record amounts, but after adjusting for inflation, it’s clear that this is not the case. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, gas prices were actually at their highest in 1981, and have remained at a stable cost to consumers since the 1950s. Of course, post-Katrina gas bills have skyrocketed beyond the normal level, but once this fluke situation is resolved, prices will return to normal. Since gas prices in America are historically exactly where they should be, though, I don’t think there’s even a gas situation to hold Bush accountable for.

President Bush may be a controversial leader, but his national disapproval is undeserved. If we as Americans are going to be critical, we should at least reserve our criticism for more important times – like when our president proposes an amendment to the Constitution that actually limits freedoms rather than protects them. And selling the SUV might help, too.

Dan Mollison is a junior in LAS. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected].