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Pretty Darn Good

Roy Esaki

In the past hundred days, President George W. Bush seems to have fared fairly well in the minds of Americans, especially considering the tumultuous elections ordeal. Bush viewed his work thus far as “pretty darn good,” and Americans seem to agree. A recent CNN/Gallup poll gave Bush a 62 percent approval rating (compared to 55 percent for Clinton and 58 percent for Bush the Elder in their respective inaugural years), even though only 50 percent believe Bush won fair and square. This impressively high esteem of Americans for a president nationally mocked for his incompetence in intellectual concerns, especially in such complex matters as foreign affairs, perhaps reflects the prevalence of American-hegemonistic thinking in our country.

Consider Bush’s reaction to the reconnaissance-plane incident in China. Following China’s reticent behavior, Bush unilaterally -- and seemingly without much thought -- departed from more than two decades of U.S. policy towards China in an interview, glibly saying that the United States would “do whatever it took” to help Taiwan defend itself against China -- a brash and over-simplified stance.

As imprudent as the remark may have been, the staunchly anti-Chinese stance resonated with American public opinion. Bush’s shifting of America’s relation with China from that of “strategic partner” to “strategic competitor” jives with the patriotically anti-Chinese Americans; the number of Americans who view China as an ally dropped from more than 50 percent in March of last year, to just 27 percent after the incident. After the Sino-U.S. staring contest and evasive semantics, the United States did get the crew back without technically apologizing (at least in our language). This success led to a 71 percent approval rating of Bush’s handling of the spy plane incident, a remarkably high number considering the relative lack of experienced Chinese-relations analysts in the White House and Bush’s personal inexperience with foreign relations.

Overall, Bush’s success, at least in foreign policy relations, seems to stem from being an average American, happy to deem the United States to be above the fray of the rest of the world. Bush Sixpack quite nicely represents us, being quick to passionately defend American interests and security when need be, coming up with strong-minded declarations, but eager to leave the task of devising a workable solution to the experts, and otherwise eager to keep his hands off of such distant concerns as international affairs. The astute and far-reaching philosophy, “I think the president can either help or not help a situation,” has guided Bush to striking popularity during his first hundred days, as he continues to either lead or not lead our nation.