How is ABC's The Note, the celebrated online tip sheet for the Beltway press class, going to handle the new CBS polling numbers that show the GOP presidency teetering on the brink, as Bush crashes to a Nixonian approval rating of 34 percent, while VP Cheney burrows into subterranean levels of 18 percent. The obvious answer would be The Note, with its vaunted insider D.C. knowledge, plays the CBS poll story high in its Tuesday morning edition and points out the obvious perils facing Bush and Co.
That would be the obvious approach. The problem, as I noted last summer, is The Note has morphed into a soothing comfort blanket for the administration, adopting White House talking points as savvy insight and always being mindful of not upsetting the administration or The Note's wide array of faithful Republican sources.
During 2005 The Note, whose only real task is to document the ups and down of the two political parties, completely failed to chronicle the political story of the year, which was Bush's floundering fifth year in office. (Or did everybody just assume he'd lose 20 points off his approval ratings in 12 months?) And now in 2006 The Note, still smitten by its RNC sources, is making the same embarrassing error. For instance, in January The Note suggested Bush's newfound rhetorical flourishes would help get his "approval rating back over 53% any day now." Or not.
When news broke in February that Cheney had shot an old man in the face during a hunting trip and then waited nearly 24 hours before informing the public, the Note reflexively announced it didn't see what the fuss was all about -- "no one we know has actually enunciated why it is in the public interest to know about such accidents same-day as opposed to next-day." It was only after a string of Republicans, including two former White House spokesmen -- Ari Fleischer and Marlin Fitzwater -- criticized the administration for obviously mishandling the incident that the Note adjusted its dismissive tone.
And just this week The Note mocked the controversy surrounding the administration's botched handling of its port security plan, waving off the press interest with, "Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...Wake us when it's over."
New polling data now puts all of The Note's celebrated 'analysis' to shame; Americans overwhelmingly do care about the port story (and overwhelmingly oppose the White House's handling of it), the Cheney fiasco was a very big deal for most citizens (and a story that may have permanently ruined the VP's reputation), and Bush is not likely to return to a 53 percent approval rating, ever.
In recent weeks scores of normally loyal Congressional Republicans, nervously viewing the November elections, have finally cut the cord with the Bush White House. Maybe it's time for The Note to do the same.
UPDATE: Read the Mystery Pollster to see why attempts by Dittoheads to undermine the CBS poll are bogus. Bush partisans, as has become their custom when polls show the president floundering, insist CBS unfairly polled more Democrats than Republicans. CBS notes its polling practices are common and the final tallies are weighted. More importantly, press haters on the right ignore the fact Bush took his biggest approval ratings hit among Republicans polled by CBS; -11 points in one month.