The war’s gone well, but the economy’s hurting. Sound familiar? As the markets fall, No. 43 has to learn the lessons that ended his dad’s career
July 29 issue — Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, is a careful, businesslike aide—a corporate-style Texan who favors charcoal gray pinstriped suits and white shirts. So when he moved into the choice corner West Wing suite vacated by the departing Karen Hughes earlier this month, he made sure to take his “41” notes with him. They’re the ones comparing public perception of the economic stewardship of the 41st president, George Bush, to that of his son, the 43d.
THE COMPARISON is fundamentally flawed,” Bartlett told NEWSWEEK last week. “Even at 41’s highest approval ratings after the gulf war, he never broke 40 percent on handling the economy.” By contrast, Bartlett added, the son’s approval ratings are at least 15 points higher.
But, hey, who’s counting? As it happens, almost everybody—at least inside the Bush White House. While the president’s overall job-approval number is still a robust 65 percent in the latest NEWSWEEK Poll (down from a high of 88 percent last fall), Bartlett, Karl Rove & Co. are intently examining the stats they know matter most, especially to a Bush: job performance on the economy. Here the numbers aren’t horrible yet, but there’s reason to worry: Democrats in Congress are now enjoying a 42 percent to 36 percent edge over Bush on who is most trusted to handle the corporate-greed scandal. “Crime in the suites” is finally stripping some of the Teflon off this president.
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