American voters lose faith in Bush's foreign policy

A week of unrelenting bad news for President George Bush was capped yesterday by a new poll showing that Americans are losing faith in his ability to handle foreign policy crises - something the White House had expected to be a major asset as he prepares his 2004 re-election campaign.

According to a New York Times/CBS survey, not only does a majority of the population disapprove of his handling of the economy - which has been plagued by slow growth and stubbornly high unemployment - for the first time a majority, albeit a slender one of 45 to 44 per cent, does not like his handling of foreign policy. Fifty-six per cent feel the country is "on the wrong track" while 53 per cent doubt whether the Iraq war has been worth the cost.

Mr Bush still has strong cards, including a continuing public faith in his leadership qualities, his honesty, and the feeling that he has made the country safer. But the poll shows that because of the disorder in Iraq, the feeble economy and the gathering scandal over the leaking of the name of a CIA operative, he has suddenly become vulnerable. The poll was being conducted when the Justice Department announced it was opening a criminal investigation into the leak.

For the first time, Mr Bush's overall ratings have slid back to where they were before 11 September 2001. By historical standards, his approval figure of about 50 per cent at this stage in the election cycle is fairly good. But it is far below the sustained 80 per cent level after the terrorist attacks, and the 70 per cent approval immediately after the invasion of Iraq.

Most ominously, Bush the son is following the same path as Bush the father. In the early autumn of 1991, at the same point in his presidency, George Bush Snr basked in an approval rating of 68 per cent. A year later he was on the verge of defeat by Bill Clinton.

For the first time, hypothetical match-ups show Mr Bush being beaten by two of the 10 Democratic presidential contenders. Retired General Wesley Clark, who entered the race just a fortnight ago, is ahead of the 43rd President by 49 per cent to 46 per cent, while Senator John Kerry, of Massachusetts, beats him by 48 to 47.

These figures reflect opinion before the row over the alleged leak by the White House of the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA employee and wife of the former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vigorous critic of the Bush administration's policy over Iraq.

FBI agents began interviewing officials at the White House yesterday in an inquiry which will also involve the State and Defence Departments and the CIA itself. A new Justice Department request for materials connected with the investigation was issued on Thursday night. State Department and Pentagon officials said they had been asked to "look at our calendars and documents".

The prime suspect is Karl Rove, Mr Bush's senior adviser and key strategist. Mr Rove denies the allegations.

Democrats are demanding an independent investigation, arguing that links between the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, and Mr Rove amount to a clear conflict of interest.

This first criminal investigation of the Bush presidency will revive memories of the scandal-ridden Clinton era, and undermine another Bush selling point, his reputation for integrity in office.

The President's rocky ride is having other repercussions. On Thursday evening renegade Republicans in the normally tightly disciplined House of Representatives joined forces with Democrats to inflict a rare defeat on the White House on overtime pay regulations.

But the embattled White House gained one crumb of comfort yesterday, with a Labour Department report that the economy added 57,000 jobs in September, after eight consecutive months of losses.

Whatever happens in Iraq, Mr Bush's re-election team believes his grip on the presidency will be determined by the economy. Robust growth of 3.5 per cent is forecast for the final quarter of 2003, but to the White House's chagrin this has been the "jobless recovery".The headline unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.1 per cent last month, although the latest figures may show that as the recovery continues new jobs are finally being created.

Since Mr Bush took office, the US economy has lost more than 2.5 million jobs. Almost certainly, therefore, he will have the unwelcome distinction of being the first incumbent since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs during his term.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee