As you know, last Thursday's surprise presidential announcement of a major restructuring of the nation's homeland security apparatus was in no way connected to the testimony that day of FBI agent Coleen Rowley or poll slippage due the ever-mounting number of FBI screw-ups. In fact it was a triumph of leak-discipline pulled off by the Bush White House getting a jump on the bureaucracy by presenting the bureaucracy and the congress with an already-put-together blueprint for how it was all going to happen.
No doubt this is why Andy Card, Nick Calio and a few of Tom Ridge's people yesterday had to tell a presumably somewhat bewildered group of congressional aides that the White House wouldn't be able to send over any actual legislation for upwards of a month. ("Two to three weeks" is what the Post article actually says.)
(The Post reporter who just filed this story is none other than Dana Milbank, who wrote the earlier rather glowing piece on the White House secrecy triumph ... catch-up for earlier ingenuousness? We report, you decide ;-) ... )
Let's not even try to carve any delicate humor out of this one. Clearly, if the 'get the jump on the Hill and the bureaucracy' line were even vaguely true, they would have had this done already. No question. The fact that they haven't confirms -- as much as anything like this ever can be confirmed -- that they were trying to get a jump on the polls and the media cycle, not the 'bureaucracy.'
And in case you're wondering whether there was any poll number deterioration, check out this snippet from today's Cook Report ...
Then the last Gallup Poll, taken before the president's Thursday night announcement of a new Homeland Security Department, showed his approval rating dropping seven points in a week, to 70 percent, the lowest since Sept. 11, with his disapproval rating up six points to 23 percent, the highest since the September tragedy. Although it's dangerous to read too much into any single poll, what in effect happened is that the Gallup polling simply came into line with most other surveys that showed the president in the low 70s and on the verge of dropping into the 60s -- still good numbers, but no longer considered "stratospheric."Lucky for the White House the president really does have an aggressive polling operation. Or else they might not have seen this one coming.
There was also an intangible that seemed to be taking hold before the announcement. Pollsters and other political operatives had begun suggesting that there was a certain uneasiness among Americans in recent weeks, that things didn't seem to be in control. There was a certain frustration from the endless warnings of upcoming terrorist acts against our country and that we still had not managed to track down Osama bin Laden. In some private polling, but not in the Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report samplings, there was also a drop in "right direction" numbers, with the "wrong track" column surging. And even though it was not directly rubbing off on the president, it was not what a president's advisers like to see happening.
Not to Josh Green: Buddy, move quick. You can probably squeeze a quick Oped out of this. The polling angle never dies!