Bush sounding ‘arrogant’ to more voters
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Since wrapping up the GOP presidential nomination, George W. Bush has been sounding like a sore winner, making acid remarks about Al Gore and dismissing former Republican rival John McCain. Voters are starting to tell pollsters the Texas governor is ”cocky” and ”arrogant.”
With his Texas swagger and a look that some voters describe as a smirk, the governor’s remarks on everything from the election to executions have renewed questions about whether he’s ready for his prime-time presidential run.
A new Pew Research Center poll suggests Bush is being hurt by it all.
Among people who now support his Democratic rival, Vice President Al Gore, the percentage who dislike Bush because of his personality has jumped from 19 percent in October to 33 percent. The figure for Gore among Bush supporters is 22 percent, compared to 24 percent in October.
And 31 percent of all the poll’s respondents chose a negative term when asked the one word that best described Bush, compared to 12 percent who thought of a negative term first a year ago.
While the majority of references to Bush were positive, the most frequently mentioned negative words were ”arrogant,” ”dislike,” ”untrustworthy,” ”wimp,” ”bad” or ”cocky.”
The most frequently mentioned negative word for Gore was ”boring,” and ”dull” was second, tied with ”politician,” undefined as to positive or negative. Next on the negative list came ”dishonest” and ”incompetent.”
Fred Greenstein, a political science professor at Princeton University, said Bush risks being labeled ”a non gravitas wise guy – that is something he has got to put some effort into working on or walking away from” if he is to win in November.
Perceived arrogance won’t necessarily hurt, said Darrell West, professor of political science at Brown University, ”if it leads people to view you as a strong and effective leader.”
But Bill Mayer, a political science professor at Northeastern University, said that too often Bush’s campaign seems to ”show him off in ways that accentuate the notion that he is not very substantive … has no great reason to appear so cocky.”
In an interview published Thursday in The Washington Post, the Texas governor launched into unsolicited and repeated criticism of the vice president.
Asked directly whether Gore has the honesty and integrity to serve as president, Bush replied: ”That’s what I’d like to know and that’s what America would like to know.”
The remarks came a week after Bush got into political hot water by coming off as dismissive of McCain, his closest rival for the GOP nomination.
In an interview with The New York Times, Bush was asked whether the Arizona senator had raised his consciousness about reform.
Bush replied, ”No, he didn’t change my views.” Bush also said he had no intention of making concessions to McCain on campaign finance reform.
While the governor later softened his remarks about McCain, his initial criticism mimicked remarks from his press secretary, who said when asked about negotiating a settlement with McCain, ”Negotiations? Governor Bush won.”
Bush didn’t directly address the issue Thursday, but he touched on his approach to Gore when answering a question about Social Security.
”I know people on the vice president’s team don’t like me to remind people that this guy will say anything to get elected, but I’m going to,” Bush said at a news conference held after he spoke to students at Colonial High School here in central Florida.
”He’s the man who said he invented the Internet; he didn’t. He’s the man who said during a debate he was responsible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, yet it was passed two years before his arrival in the U.S. Congress.
”I believe I can keep the tone right, because America wants somebody to lead the country in the future, but I’m going to keep asking those questions,” Bush said.
Explanations aside, Bush’s remarks – and questions about his readiness to be president – have been recurring themes on the campaign trail:
– During a debate on Dec. 6 in Phoenix, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, took a playful jab at Bush that carried a serious charge: ”I really believe that you need more experience before you become president of the United States. That’s why I’m thinking of you as a vice presidential candidate.”
– In that same debate, questions arose about whether Bush was really reading, as he had previously stated, a biography of Dean Acheson, President Truman’s secretary of state.
Instead of answering a question about what lessons he had learned from Acheson, Bush recited sections from the foreign policy section of his stump speech.
– During a debate on March 2 in Los Angeles, the governor laughed when asked about Calvin Jerold Burdine, a Texas death row inmate who had been ordered freed after 16 years because his lawyer slept through his trial. Bush said the man’s release proved ”the system worked.”
– In the run-up to the March 7 Super Tuesday voting, Bush started running TV ads in New York questioning McCain’s commitment to fighting breast cancer. McCain’s sister suffered from the disease, and when that was brought too Bush’s attention, he said it was ”all the more reason to remind” McCain of his record.
McCain replied: ”I wonder if someone who would treat a situation like that is ready for prime time.”