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Lies, Damn Lies, and the Polls
January 31, 2002
by John Larson

I remember when I was enrolled in a Logic 101 class, studying the subject as part of a requirement towards getting an Associate's degree. There were, oddly enough, exercises that had to be worked out at the end of the chapter, somewhat like a cross between basic grammar and mathematics. One had to give special consideration to not just what was said but how it was said because an obscure word or phrase could give a completely different meaning to what was supposed to have been conveyed. The whole point was to expose the fallacies made in claims that were being made on an everyday basis, whether spewed relentlessly by advertisers or politicians.

One example clearly stood out in my mind since it was so obvious that it was overlooked. It used an example made famous by Playboy's review of some writing by Stephen King: 25 Million Readers can't be wrong. Very persuasive of course, so I had to look and see what the fallacy was when I saw an example of a reply: "75 million people haven't read Stephen King and maybe you shouldn't either."

How I hadn't seen the solution to that was surprising, but I take a little comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only one who could fall for that kind of an argument. However it was tempered with knowing that a lack of exercise of critical thought is a very, very common affliction and it is easier to be blinded than I ever could have imagined.

This form of an argument, that if many agree on something then they must be correct, is a myth that is perpetuated everyday these days by the desperate politicians who are in the White House. George W. Bush is a man who has been completely besieged by the scandals growing within his ranks and continued embarrassment of his personal misconduct (products of the arrogance and ignorance that are characterizing his stay in the Oval Office) and gross ineptitude.

One need not look further than the infamous conclusions that Zogby made quite recently that George W. Bush was ranking very highly among the greatest Presidents in the of the last 100 years, beating out a strong number of historical figures in the process.

So here we are, left with someone who came into office with the taint of an election scandal (or at best came in under extremely dubious circumstances), someone who among other things has to contend with the Enron mess, Funeralgate, a DUI offender married to someone involved with vehicular manslaughter. He dodged the draft and is a known alcoholic (according to the strictest definition of AA's definition) who's known to have been a drug abuser, someone who can't properly enunciate or spell even after having attended Yale of all places, who likely also has an abortion with another woman to his credit.

He's a failed business leader in several ventures, an ex-governor who refused to make a case for civil rights despite the pleading of the daughter of James Byrd, and has presided over a high number of executions in his state. This is also a man that has been given a position by the Supreme Court (which Sandra Day O'Connor, a Reagan appointee, has expressed remorse over even being involved in, which certainly does not look good for him).

There are also the highly disputed ballots from Florida that confirmed that Gore was in fact the winner if the over votes were ever allowed to have been counted. There are purged voter lists in Florida and several reports of Civil Rights violations.

There's also that "vacation" that he took after only two months in, which was at least several weeks.

And if that weren't enough, extreme negligence on the part of the Bush administration is likely the culprit behind the 911 terrorist bombings. When you think about it, there's much to answer for, including the faith-based $43 million that the Taliban received prior to the bombings, not to mention the heavy involvement between Osama Bin Laden's and Bush's family. There was also of course the lack of preparedness on behalf of the big airlines not to put into place better protections (something that Gore had in fact lobbied to have put in place while he was still in office).

There were the warnings by the Mossad, the special forces of the Isreali military. There were also warnings from Gary Hart that something like that would happen (which were cast aside by Condoleeza Rice). In short, there was a catastrophic failure by the intelligence community to keep this from happening, which in some circles is raising some suspicious eyebrows, especially in light of the so-called Patriot Act. And a Senate Investigation is likely into this matter.

And there's the economy going south once Bush came into office - a record surplus that was completely erased in less than a year. There's also his opposition to campaign finance reform that's forcing John McCain, a former Republican Primary opponent, to square off with his former rival.

Yes, we're left with a lazy, deficit-running draft dodger who has neglected his personal responsibilities, someone who has left everyone with little doubt that he has no sensibilities, has let down his guard and allowed the Trade Tower bombings to take place while letting his Attorney General supervise the elimination of our civil liberties. This isn't a person that could even be liked by factions of Republicans within his own party (sadly enough congressional Republicans have often fought with him more bitterly than congressional Democrats).

This is a man that somehow Zogby claims is worthy of stature among men such as Truman, FDR, Eisenhower, and JFK. It has been just a year that he's been in office but I'm sure that conservatives have to shake their head and wonder how in God's name Bush managed to rank above Ronald Wilson Reagan, a very highly popular two-term President who arguably brought an end to the Cold War.

It is more than painfully obvious that the polls have became a purely propagandist tool for the White House. Look at any poll and Bush's approval numbers are abnormally high, especially given his share of predicaments he's forced to deal with.

The polls are the proverbial fig leaf meant to cover up the growing shame of the current White House. In fact, if anything, Bush is terrified and so are his handlers and they damn well should be. The mid-term elections are coming up and there has already been a shift from the extreme right-wing policies to those on the left. The 2001 elections went overwhelmingly Democratic and in a number of local races Green party members have won some seats with a minimal amount of campaigning.

Tom Daschle is becoming more prominent as someone the White House fears. After this November, there won't just be more Tom Daschles but also more Henry Waxmans and Jan Schakowskys. And if that isn't enough there will be more John McCains out there too in Congress.

Congress is fundamentally the most important chamber of our government. However Bush should also be worried about the lack of leadership that leaves him with a disadvantage. Whether you liked them or hated them, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were both highly effective presidents because of their charisma. Bush II doesn't have as much charisma as his dad did (who basically got his by riding Reagan's coat tails for just a couple of years). He's had to depend on staged rallies and has refused to hold any more press conferences himself to address the public.

Yet the polls would tell us that this is a man held in high esteem, the man who was supposed to somehow bring honor and dignity to the White House. Apparently honor and dignity didn't care to be part of Bush's staff after all.

Another lesson we learned in my Logic class was how to analyze the conclusions the polls made. Its very common these days not to have any sort of margin of error included in the results or to include the numbers of people who may not provide a more favorable answer to a particular question. Many questions are left vague and any sort of interpretation can be made if one wanted to try hard enough. Oddly enough these same polls consistently ranked Bush with a higher approval over Gore, who holds the distinction of winning the popular vote without getting enough electoral votes to be given the White House. Needless to say the polls simply can't be trusted anymore.

So now whenever I see a poll giving Bush another gaudy approval rating like say 80% or so, I just think that another 180% didn't approve of him. And neither should I.

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