Northern Valley Beacon

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Disaster and the art of political blackmail

Mark Schmitt analyzes why people approve of abject failure:

Kevin Drum expressed some amazement today at the fact that the ABC News poll puts Bush's approval for handling of Katrina at 46%, vs. 47% disapproval. As Kevin says, "Even if you're a more forgiving sort than I am, what exactly has he done that deserves approval?"

True. But there's a factor here that I think is always neglected in these polls: There's always a thin line between what we believe and what we wish to be true, or need to believe to be true.

Unless you've given up completely on the Bush presidency (as most of us here [TPMCafe] have, but most Americans have not), you naturally want to think the president and the government are doing the best job they can do with the disaster, because to believe otherwise is kind of terrifying. After Sept. 11, Bush's ratings went sky-high not so much because he did anything particularly distinctive in response, but simply because you have no choice but to trust the president under such circumstances. Similarly, especially if your own family is affected by the war in Iraq, you have to believe that the president is making the right choices and started the war on the best intelligence and on honestly held beliefs. It's simply a fact of human nature that people have an easier time believing the thing that makes them feel a little more comfortable and secure in their previous assumptions and their trust.

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