A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll says Bush’s approval rating (finally) has dropped below 40 percent

The poll shows that Bush’s approval rating stands at 39 percent, a new low for the president. In the last NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, which was released in mid-September, 40 percent approved of Bush’s job performance while 55 percent disapproved. In addition, just 28 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction, another all-time low in Bush’s presidency.

Strikingly, much has happened in the time between those two polls — many of them seemingly positive events for the White House. The president delivered a prime-time speech from New Orleans, in which he promised to rebuild the Gulf Coast. He also made several more visits to the region, to examine the damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Furthermore, he saw the Senate confirm John Roberts to the Supreme Court, and he nominated Miers, his White House counsel, to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor..

I’m hardly objective, but I believe all the trips to the Gulf just make him look desperate.

The Dems should be happy that 48 percent say they’d prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress, as opposed to 39 percent who want to keep the Republicans in charge. I’m not sure the Dems have done anything to deserve their improvement in the polls, but there it is.

Along these lines, David Ignatius has an interesting column in today’s Washington Post:

Watching the Republicans floundering over the past week, I can’t help thinking of a school of beached whales. The leviathans of the GOP have boldly swum themselves onto this patch of dry sand, and it won’t be easy for them to get back to open ocean….

…What’s interesting is that most of these wounds are self-inflicted. They draw a picture of a party that, for all its seeming dominance, isn’t prepared to be the nation’s governing party. The hard right, which is the soul of the modern GOP, would rather be ideologically pure than successful. Governing requires making compromises and getting your hands dirty, but the conservative purists disdain those qualities. They swim for that beach with a fiercely misguided determination, and they demand that the other whales accompany them.

The bickering over the Miers nomination epitomizes the right’s refusal to assume the role of a majoritarian governing party. The awkward fact for conservatives is that the American public doesn’t agree with them on abortion rights. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll in late August found 54 percent describing themselves as pro-choice and only 38 percent as pro-life, roughly the same percentages as a decade ago. …

… Bush squandered this opportunity by falling into the trap that has snared the modern GOP — of playing to the base rather than to the nation. The Republicans behave as if the country agrees with them on issues, when that demonstrably isn’t so. The country doesn’t agree about Social Security, doesn’t agree about the ethical issues that were dramatized by the torment of Terri Schiavo, doesn’t agree about abortion. Yet, in a spirit of blind partisanship, House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced last year that bills would reach the floor only if “the majority of the majority” supported them. That notion of governing from the hard right was a recipe for failure.

Righties have a pathological need to believe their point of view is the majority point of view, and that we lefties represent a few bitter enders camped out in a commune for aging hippies. I’ve written about this before. Whenever you pin a rightie in an argument, he or she always falls back on the “oh, yeah? Well, most people agree with me” defense. Except, most people don’t.

And I think the GOP could get away with a lot as long as most middle-class Americans felt safe and complacent. But these days nobody’s feeling safe or complacent. People are getting scared, and pissed off, and they’re looking at Washington, and seeing … Republicans in charge.

And a few Dems have been coming forward with something that looks like an actual agenda, something I hope to write about tomorrow.

Whigs in the News

Per Josh Marshall (see also Raw Story) a Wall Street Journal article provides tantalizing hints that Patrick Fitzgerald is after a much broader conspiracy than just the leaking of one agent’s name. Josh says,

“Mr. Fitzgerald’s pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent’s name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy.”

And then further down there’s this: “Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson’s claims.”

Josh explains the significance of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG).

This group was the organizational team, the core group behind all the shameless crap that went down in the lead up to the Iraq war — the lies about the cooked up Niger story, everything. If Fitzgerald has lassoed this operation into a criminal conspiracy, the veil of protective secrecy in which the whole operation is still shrouded will be pulled back. Depositions and sworn statements in on-going investigations have a way of doing that. Ask Bill Clinton. Every key person in the White House will be touched by it. And all sorts of ugly tales could spill out.

Kevin Drum reminds us of earlier indicators:

… keep in mind that Fitzgerald has been investigating the WHIG all along, ever since the first big batch of subpoenas were delivered to the White House last year. Here’s the Washington Post in March 2004:

Aides to President Bush agreed to turn over a log of a week’s worth of telephone calls from Air Force One and other records to satisfy subpoenas from a federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative’s identity, White House officials said Friday.

….The subpoenas also seek documents from July 6 to July 30 relating to the White House Iraq Group, a group of communications, political, national security and legislative aides who met weekly in the Situation Room.

… Fitzgerald has been well aware of the importance of WHIG for a long time, which is the reason such a broad group of people have been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury already. As near as I can tell, pretty much every single person associated with WHIG has already either testified or given a deposition.

Digby links to a pdf report called “Truth from These Podia: Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence, Perception Management, Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic Psychological Operations in Gulf II,” which identifies “50 false news stories created and leaked by a secretive White House propaganda apparatus.” The author of this report, Col. Sam Gardiner, argues that it was not “bad intelligence” that got us into Iraq, Rather, the White House orchestrated a propaganda campaign to deceive the public into supporting the war.

Yeah, I know you know this already, but it’s still a big mystery to most Americans.

Digby quotes an August 10, 2003, article from the Washington Post by Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus:

This article is based on interviews with analysts and policymakers inside and outside the U.S. government, and access to internal documents and technical evidence not previously made public.

The new information indicates a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates — in public and behind the scenes — made allegations depicting Iraq’s nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support. On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied

Again, none of this is news if you’re a news junkie. But most Americans remain utterly unaware of how they’ve been played. And the reason for this, as Digby says, is that news media are complicit. From the cable television bobbleheads who helped squelch meaningful debate to reporters like Judy Miller who acted as conduits for White House disinformation, the media aided and abetted the propaganda effort. Willingly? Willfully? Knowingly?

(Speaking of Baghdad Judy, Steve Soto at The Left Coaster reports that Judy Miller testified to Fitzgerald’s grand jury for just over an hour, and left all smiles. She was there “just long enough to hang someone else,” Steve says.)

Gene Lyons writes,

The indictments of several name-brand White House aides, should they materialize, would mark the effective end of the Bush administration’s ability to govern in anything but the narrowest formal sense .

What’s more , if ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos’ unnamed source is correct, and President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were directly involved in conversations about how to neutralize Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, after he went public about false claims regarding Iraq’s nonexistent nukes, there’s no telling where things could end .

Where, indeed. AfterDowningStreet reports that “By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq.”

See also,

CIA Leak Scandal: Rove Defied Bush’s Command?” David Corn, The Nation

Libby Did Not Tell Grand Jury About Key Conversation,” Murray Waas, National Journal

Scooter Libby: Screwed, Blued and Tatooed,” Jane Hamsher, The Huffington Post

DeLay Is a King Without a Crown in the House,” Carl Hulse, New York Times

Frist Accumulated Stock Outside Trusts,” Larry Margasak and Jonathan Katz, Associated Press