Thursday, December 29


Here's an interesting story I almost missed: NPR's analysis of what was, and wasn't, on the public's mind in 2005. It includes the top 10 public opinion trends for the year, the top headline stories that got a yawn instead of a yelp, and the news interest index:

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita led the list of this year's top news interest stories, claiming the very close attention of nearly three-in-four (73 percent) in October -- a considerably higher rating than was received by any news story in the past three years. ... Interest in the back-to-back storms not only matched the previous two-decade record for a natural disaster, the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, but came close to matching the attention accorded the 9/11 terrorist attacks (74 percent).
Following close behind Katrina and Rita were prices at the gasoline pump, with 71 percent of Americans tracking their progress very closely. A related story, the large profits reported by oil companies, drew intense interest among 37 percent of the public in November. While gas prices topped the news interest list in 2004, and took second place in 2003, in those years public interest peaked at only 64 percent and 53 percent, respectively. The condition of the U.S. economy was also of recurring intense interest, peaking at 35 percent at the year's end.

Apart from continuing attention to the situation in Iraq, only two foreign-based stories attracted high interest among the U.S. public; both were disaster-related. The dramatic aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, which occurred shortly before the start of the year, was followed very closely by 58 percent of the public in January. The terrorist bombings in London in July also drew substantial interest, with about half of the public (48 percent) tracking the story with great interest, on par with peak public interest in the situation in Iraq.

Iraq continued to draw the very close attention of upwards of 40 percent of the public throughout the year, although this level of attention to the war never matched its peak levels of 54 percent in October 2004 and 63 percent in May 2003.
President Bush's plan to introduce private accounts into the Social Security was very closely watched by 38 percent in March, as the president traveled the country to pitch his plan to the public, while his soon-to-start Medicare drug coverage plan elicited the close attention of one-in-four Americans. A quarter of the population also closely followed the death of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks, while about an equal number focused on the indictment of top White House aide I. Scooter Libby.

I find it highly interesting that Katrina and Rita rivaled 911 in news interest among the American public. I imagine that the interest in Rita was at least partly due to the public's desire to see if the president, and FEMA, would blow it again like they did in the aftermath of Katrina.

I suggest that this is an opportunity the Democrats mustn't squander -- the story of Bush administration incompetence. Over and over we should be beating the drum, "If you can't trust Bush to protect us from a natural disaster, how do you expect him to protect us from terrorism?"

Poppy Bush was perceived to be a very competent executive, but his political downfall was his perceived upper-class indifference to the interests of working families. In an interesting flip-flop, Dubya has very effectively used his Texas twang and folksy charm to project an image of a down-to-earth guy working families can relate to; but his ability to govern and dedication to doing so should be questionable to any reasonable mind. His ability is his vulnerability. List after list of the president's failures should be drawn up and publicized, including, but certainly not limited to:

- Failure to find bin Laden
- The very limited number of actual terrorists that have been caught and brought to justice
- His poor grades on the 9/11 Commission's scorecard
- What looks to be the loss of a major, and unique, American city, and a large portion of the gulf coast
- The stagnation of wages vs. record corporate profits
- Republican and corporate corruption
- A million more Americans living below the poverty line
- Record deficits and trade imbalances
- A weakened military
- An increase in terror attacks worldwide
- Budget cuts for programs benefiting the poor and middle class and tax cuts benefiting the uberwealthy

Another thing I'd love is to see juxtaposed a clip of Bush after Katrina talking about rebuilding Trent Lott's vacation home with clips of people in New Orleans living in tents in the streets, then a bit of footage of Bush talking earnestly about supporting our men and women in Iraq split with our troops scavenging for armor to protect themselves and their vehicles. "THAT'S Republican priorities for you," the voiceover would intone. "THAT'S Republican values in action."

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12:22 PM  

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