President Bush's Approval Numbers Drop After He Intervenes in Terri Schiavo Case

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NBC Today Show
Campbell Brown
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NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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The Wall Street Journal's John Harwood discusses the drop in President George W. Bush's approval ratings after he flies to Washington, DC, to sign a bill allowing the Terri Schiavo case to go to federal course. In March 2005, the State of Florida and U.S. government both passed laws to stop the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube. The laws were unsuccessful. Schiavo died on March 31, 2005.



"President Bush's Approval Numbers Drop After He Intervenes in Terri Schiavo Case." Campbell Brown, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 26 Mar. 2005. NBC Learn. Web. 21 January 2015.


Brown, C. (Reporter). (2005, March 26). President Bush's Approval Numbers Drop After He Intervenes in Terri Schiavo Case. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"President Bush's Approval Numbers Drop After He Intervenes in Terri Schiavo Case" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 03/26/2005. Accessed Wed Jan 21 2015 from NBC Learn:


President Bush's Approval Numbers Drop After He Intervenes in Terri Schiavo Case


The Terri Schiavo case made its way to Washington this past week with President Bush getting involved in the controversial case. This as a new national poll finds the commander and chief's job approval rating has slipped. Joining us now is the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood.

Good morning, John.

Mr. JOHN HARWOOD (Wall Street Journal): Good morning, Campbell.

BROWN: Let's talk about the Schiavo case, initially. The—the president, as you know, last week he flew back from Crawford to Washington. Got up in the middle of the night to sign the bill allowing this to go to a federal court. Is there anything else he can do legally?

Mr. HARWOOD: I don't think so, Campbell. And we've seen the president say that himself this week from Crawford. It is fascinating to see these poll numbers. You know, the president got criticized, as did Republican leaders, for playing politics with this case. But when you look at what the reaction of the public has been, most Americans think that the president and Congress should stay out of it and it's obviously not helping him.

BROWN: Well, he often talks about how much political capital he has and how he's going to spend it. How much political capital did he and did Republicans expend by involving themselves?

Mr. HARWOOD: I don't think, Campbell, he spent all that much on this. He did fly back and there probably were some salutary effects for the Republican Party in terms of reinforcing their conservative Christian base. But the president has backed away as the options have dwindled for the Schindler family. I--but really, I think that what the numbers show is the American people are fairly pragmatic and they think this isn't the government's business and the things that they want the government to do--things like dealing with Social Security--are not making progress right now. And the president now finds himself now trying to renew that fight and having a little bit less political capital than--than he started with.

BROWN: What about Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the president's brother? He said he's not going to run for president in 2008. Is he looking more long term to his political future and did involving himself trying to help Terri Schiavo's parents, did that help him with conservatives as he looks down the road?

Mr. HARWOOD: I think it did. He certainly identified himself as the champion of Terri Schiavo. This is something that activists, conservatives are going to remember for a long time. We don't know whether Jeb Bush is going to run for president, say in 2012. He's ruled it out for 2008. But he certainly underscored his status as a leading conservative--social conservative as well as an economic conservative.

BROWN: John, let's take a look at the poll numbers you referenced a moment ago, this is according to the USA TODAY/CNN Gallup poll. The president's approval rating sliding 7 points in one week, from 52 percent to 45 percent. Now, to be fair, in this week's poll, more people identified themselves as being Democrats than in the previous week. But taking that into consideration, does the drop mean anything, A? And if so, B, what's behind it?

Mr. HARWOOD: Well, a couple of things. It's always hard to say exactly what goes into a president's job approval rating. I think the good news for the president, there's only so far that you can fall. The president is so polarized. People have chosen up sides about George W. Bush. We've seen, as you know, Campbell, in our Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, that the president's rating has just varied a few points above and below 50 percent for over a year now. But a couple of things I think are relevant to this. One is the Schiavo case and we've seen a drop in popularity among men who tend to be most skeptical of government intervention. And, secondly, we've had some time pass between the favorable developments earlier this year like those Iraqi elections which were seen as a success. US troops are still there, Americans are impatient about that. Seen gas prices continue to rise, inflation is coming back a bit. We saw the Fed raise interest rates this week. So there's some things that are irritants to the American public that the--that Washington needs to get on top of.

BROWN: All right. Well, we always appreciate your insight. John Harwood, thanks very much.