As Mark Finklestein noted in his earlier post Today can't seem to stay away from the same old themes.
Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show first with Ophelia news but quickly got to Bush's falling poll numbers: "Good morning the storm that won't leave. Hurricane Ophelia is battering the North Carolina coast for a second straight day. Damage control. President Bush heads back to the Gulf Coast for a primetime address. Can he turn around those plunging poll numbers?"
At 7:08am Katie Couric and Tim Russert explored Bush's falling poll numbers in depth:
Katie Couric: "Alright let's talk about these latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal numbers Tim and as you know the President's approval rating according to this poll is at an all-time low of just 40 percent and when you look at how that compares to his approval rating following September 11th which was 88 percent it's quite dramatic isn't it?"
Russert, getting ready to fly down to New Orleans with the President was via satellite from Andrews Air Force Base: "It's extraordinary Katie. Normally in times of crisis the American people, in fact, go surround their president and support their president. That has not happened in Katrina. Quite the opposite. A 40 percent approval is the lowest rating George Bush has had in the five years of his presidency."
And while not as direct as Kanye West, Couric used the poll numbers to relay how Bush is viewed negatively in the African American community:
Couric: "Asked if the Bush administration would have moved faster in the relief effort if the affected areas had been mostly white suburban communities instead of inner city, African American communities 30 percent of whites polled said they agreed but 70 percent of blacks said they agreed that the response would be faster if the victims were white. I know this is particularly unsettling for the White House Tim and I'm wondering how does the President tackle this issue and is there a reason this administration is particularly vulnerable to such criticism?"
Russert: "You know Katie this is a haunting question because it tears back the curtain on the racial divide that exists in this country, how blacks and whites see this so differently. The President had been embarking on a huge reach out to black Americans to join the Republican Party. Obviously that is gonna be very, very difficult in light of these numbers. It's gonna take an awful lot to convince African-Americans by this President that he responded quickly. It's gonna take a concerted effort. This is his fourth trip, many more trips, much more investment. It's a long, uphill struggle in order to rectify the situation."
Couric and Russert continued to dig for more bad news for the President in their own poll.
Couric: "Meanwhile when the American people in this poll were asked if, if this country is adequately prepared for some kind of attack involving weapons of mass destruction 75 percent say the United States is not prepared. Only 19 percent believe, wait, that's I think the wrong numbers, while 19 percent believe we are. So those numbers, again Tim, recently the fourth anniversary of September 11th, were you shocked by that?"
Russert: "I was Katie but you understand it, now. It is numbing. There was a breakdown at the local, state and federal level and people got it. They understand it and they're scared. There's a high anxiety level. The one thing that George Bush had throughout his presidency whether people liked his policies or didn't like him, they respected him as a leader. We have now seen serious slippage in that particular question as reflected in this: three out of every four Americans are anxious and don't have confidence that we are prepared for, God forbid, another terrorist attack. That is very sobering."
And Couric couldn't get out of the segment without returning to Iraq one last time.
Couric: "And we should mention that it was one of the deadliest days in Iraq since the war started yesterday, Tim, with 177 killed and, and, and wounded, 570 Iraqis. So this was terrible news compounding the President's difficulties."
Russert: "Katie in our poll it's quite striking. 55 percent of Americans say they want to reduce the number of troops in Iraq. 60 percent say Katrina and recovery is a high priority, only five percent say Iraq. And when asked how to pay for the Katrina effort they say scale down Iraq. This is something that is confronting this President. People have linked Katrina and Iraq and they're looking inward."