Democrats will help Bush get out of the cellar

Okay, here’s the EZ Three-Step Solution to George W. Bush’s falling approval ratings:

1) Fix the post-Katrina mess.

2) Win a peaceful democracy in Iraq.

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3) Reduce the price of gas by at least $1 a gallon.

Okay, here’s the EZ Three-Step Solution to George W. Bush’s falling approval ratings:

1) Fix the post-Katrina mess.

2) Win a peaceful democracy in Iraq.

3) Reduce the price of gas by at least $1 a gallon.

Do those things, Mr. President, and those poll numbers will go right up.

If you can’t do them, then make progress on them. That will probably work, too.

But if you can’t do them, and you can’t make progress on them, then wait for your Democratic critics to overreach. That will surely work.

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There’s no denying that the news from the latest Gallup poll is bad for the president. His job approval rating stands at 40 percent — a low point in his presidency so far.

And to show you how bad it is, in addition to the overall job approval rating, Gallup asked respondents to rate the president’s performance in several policy areas. Bush’s highest rating — his highest — was for his handling of Hurricane Katrina: 41 percent.

A smaller number — 38 percent — approved of his handling of foreign affairs. A still smaller number — 35 percent — approved of his handling of the economy. And a still smaller number — 32 percent — approved of his handling of the situation in Iraq.

That’s not good.

In addition, several areas that had once been Bush strong points are now not so strong.

The number of people who say that Bush is honest and trustworthy is now 47 percent. In January, it was 56 percent. In April 2003, it was 73 percent. In April 2002, it was 77 percent.

The number of people who say he is a strong and decisive leader is now 49 percent. In January, it was 61 percent. In April 2003, it was 80 percent. In April 2002, it was 77 percent.

And in addition to all that, one other question in the Gallup poll reveals what a foul mood the public is in.

Gallup asked: “Just your best guess, do you think George W. Bush has taken steps to help victims of Hurricane Katrina mostly because he sincerely cares about the victims or mostly for political reasons?”

Just 42 percent said Bush was acting because he sincerely cares about the victims, while 56 percent said he was acting mostly for political reasons.

Now that is an unhappy public. So what should the president do?

Obviously, he should try to fix the problems. But he should also keep an eye on his political adversaries, who will undoubtedly give him a boost by going off the anti-Bush deep end.

For example, Cindy Sheehan is in town for the big antiwar rally this weekend. It will be populated by International ANSWER and all sorts of fringy types.

They are so far out on the edges of the political conversation that their presence will probably turn off even those Americans who have legitimate questions about the war in Iraq.

The president can also count on MoveOn.org to be involved in some tin-eared, ham-handed anti-Bush campaign in the near future.

Two weeks ago, MoveOn organized a rally in front of the White House to demand that “President Bush should stop blaming the victims of Hurricane Katrina and get to work helping them.”

Huh?

Senate Democrats will also do their part. Just this week, Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidStrange bedfellows oppose the filibuster No, it is not racist to question birthright citizenship McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) announced that he will vote against Supreme Court chief-justice nominee John Roberts.

Reid and a number of other Democrats apparently believe that a big Democratic vote against Roberts will send a sharp message to the White House: Send us a more moderate nominee next time.

But the message the White House will hear is this: If they vote against Roberts, they’ll vote against anybody. We might as well nominate the person we think is best — a solid conservative — regardless of what Democrats think.

And by the way, Gallup asked respondents about Roberts. Sixty percent said they want him to be confirmed, versus 26 percent who opposed him and 14 percent who had no opinion.

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Reid and his party are also likely to overreach by fighting the president on the issue of wages and labor rules for workers cleaning up after Katrina.

The president has suspended Davis-Bacon rules for the cleanup (the law has a provision for such a suspension in the case of natural disaster). Labor unions — providers of megamillions to Democratic campaigns — are up in arms.

So the stage might be set for a fight similar to the one over the Department of Homeland Security, when Democrats blocked what was portrayed as an essential measure for the nation’s security to please their big-labor patrons.

If you’re a president with a 40 percent job approval rating — which might go down even farther — all of that is very, very welcome news.

Bush deserves some of the blame he’s gotten lately. And now he’s paying the price — until Democrats come to his rescue.

York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week. E-mail: byork@thehill.com