Transcript: Why Are Pres. Bush's Poll Ratings Down?

This partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, June 21, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House.

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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Despite the passage of the tax cut and his recent trip abroad, President Bush's approval ratings have fallen somewhat to 53 percent since March according to a "New York Times" poll. In addition, Democrats are upset by letters sent out by the IRS that gives President Bush credit for the tax cut. So is the president hitting a slight bump in the road?

Joining us now from Washington, Republican Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts.

Congressman Watts, you know that they're sending the letters. The tax cut's going through. Chuck Schumer among them. They're furious. They're angry. They're upset this is happening. They're -- they're saying it's all political.

What he forgot to do is read the conferees' letter. You're aware of it? It's in the bill. In the conferee report, it says, quote, "The conferees anticipate that the IRS will send notices to most taxpayers approximately one month after the enactment. The notices will inform the taxpayers of the computation of their checks and the approximate date at which they can receive them."

Did you know that?

REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: You're right. It's in the conference report where Republicans and Democrats both -- they get together and determine how everything's going to be done, how the money's going to be distributed. That was in the conference report. I don't see what the big deal is, other than the fact that maybe those folks moaning about that -- they're upset that the money is going back to the American people.

HANNITY: Yeah. You know, I'm sure my good friend, Alan, is going to talk about this "New York Times" report. By the way, the president's doing well. He's 55 percent in the Gallup poll that's out, 53 in "The New York Times." He's going to go after energy, the environment.

You know, there's been a lot of propaganda in the last five months blaming President Bush for the energy problems. Do you think that's responsible for his low numbers there, that -- the misinformation blaming him for a problem the Clinton administration caused?

WATTS: Well, I think there's probably several things, Sean, and I think it's important to say I am -- I am so sick of all of these polls that I can hardly stand it.


WATTS: You know, I think we're getting on a very slippery slope in trying to -- a very slippery slope in trying to govern by -- by polls and hope the president doesn't -- doesn't start doing it, which I don't think he will, but...

HANNITY: Well...

WATTS: ... but the thing is those polling numbers, that data was gathered during the time that, one, the president was out of the country. Two, you know, 53 percent -- that -- that's still pretty good if you -- if you believe the numbers.

HANNITY: Well, at 55 percent in the other poll.

WATTS: And 55 in the other poll, and -- and so I think the president's in good shape. You know, this is a long-term deal.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this question, though, you know, because -- and I think this is very important. We had Dick Morris sitting here the other night, and I said to Dick -- I said, "You know something, Dick?" I said, "When you come on this program, you advise candidates and politicians, oh, they've got to move to the right, oh, they better move to the left, oh, they're going to lose reelection if they don't do this or that." We've had the polling and focus grouping in the Clinton years.

You know, isn't it refreshing that, for once, somebody has core values and principles and understands the difficulty of a long-term, comprehensive solution to energy where we'll take a hit in the short term, but everybody will benefit in the long term, and he's not driven by polls, he's driven by principle?

WATTS: Well -- and, Sean, the president is wanting to offer a plan so that we don't repeat what has happened in California, you know, continually, that we don't see blackouts, you know, every other year, every six months, and the way you do that is either you reduce demand or you increase supply, and that's what the president's comprehensive plan consisting of conservation, more production, efficiencies, doing those type of things -- that's what keeps us out of this blackout posture that we see in the State of California.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Congressman, it's Alan Colmes. Good to have you back with us, sir.

WATTS: Thank you, sir.

COLMES: You know, it's easy to say -- to pooh-pooh the poll when it's down -- he's down 7 points, which is a lot. When he was up in the 60s, the Republicans were praising how well he was doing. Let's look at a couple of key questions here in the poll, which I find of concern.

One of the questions -- "Since he has been president, has Bush concentrated on the problems that matter most to you or other problems?" Twenty-five percent problems that matter most. Other problems 61 percent. Fourteen with no opinion.

And one other that I find troubling is the policies of the Bush administration favor the rich. Fifty-seven percent say that. Only 8 percent say the middle class, 2 percent the poor, 27 percent all the same, and 6 percent no opinion. But that's troubling that so few people see that this president cares about the middle class in America.

WATTS: Well, Alan, let me go back and -- and I think, if you look at your records, you will see that back when the president's numbers were 61 percent, I said even then that, hey, these are polling numbers. It's a snapshot. These numbers are going to go up. They're going to go down. You know, you can't live your life based on what the polls are saying.

But concerning this rich-poor thing, you know, the president's tax plan affected 16-million African-Americans in a positive way, 15-million Hispanics in a positive way, over 60-million females in a positive way, and most of those people are not rich. You know, that's $600 that my wife and I are going to get in rebate money. That's $300 that Americans are going to get in rebate money. Those people are not rich.

And so I tend to think that we sometimes think that, in this country, if you have a job, then that qualifies you as being rich, and -- and it doesn't, so -- you know...

HANNITY: We've -- we've got to take a break, Congressman.

WATTS: I think it's -- OK. All right.

HANNITY: Hang on there. We'll come right back to Congressman J.C. Watts, we continue on HANNITY & COLMES in just a minute.

And also coming up, should Congressman Condit speak out publicly about Washington intern Chandra Levy? We'll ask a former FBI profiler.

And also later, should schools be forced to send sports teams to neighborhoods that they think are dangerous? We'll have a one-on-one straightforward debate coming up.


COLMES: Welcome back to HANNITY & COLMES. We now continue with Congressman J.C. Watts.

Congressman, you talked about how well this is doing on behalf of African-Americans. His polling numbers with African-Americans are down significantly, down to 18 percent from 30 percent a few months ago. That's a significant drop. If, indeed, all that he's doing is so good, why aren't -- why isn't this being noticed by those groups that are, you say, benefiting from it?

WATTS: Well, Alan, I think you're just now here in the next probably 30 days about to see some of the president's policies start to kick in. The tax-relief package -- he's been working on that from the day he was sworn in. He said, "I'm going to offer a tax-relief package." He has gotten that through. He's gotten it done.

We're going to see tax rates reduced. We're going to get -- see people get some of their money back, have more money to spend on their kids, to buy food, to pay for utility bills, to help with the health insurance. I think people want to see what the president talked about during the campaign. They want to see that come to pass. And they're seeing that. They're going to start seeing that.

So those numbers -- they don't concern me, and I don't think they concern President Bush because...

COLMES: Well -- well, they ought to...

WATTS: ... he understands the importance of doing things to help the American people improve their quality of life.

COLMES: I know it's easy to say, "Well," you know, "it's just one poll over a long period of time." Isn't it important for the president to pay attention to what the American people are saying? I'm not saying you have to take every poll as exacting, but if there are trends, if you're seeing that your numbers are soft in a certain area, there's a reason why politicians pay big money to get polling done. Every politician does it, and...

WATTS: Well...

COLMES: Don't you have to listen to some extent to what the American people are saying?

WATTS: Well, several things, Alan, that I think are worth noting. One, I think the Jeffords thing did have -- I think he did -- and probably Republicans -- I think you'll see that Republicans probably received somewhat of a downward bump from the Jeffords deal, but, you know, I think you are going to see the American people get over that and see the president's policies doing good things for them.

And, again, when the president -- when those numbers were taken, when that data was gathered, the president was out of the country. He was over talking about foreign policy. The American people don't necessarily see foreign policy as something that affects their lives -- although I believe that good foreign policy is good domestic policy.

So I think we saw probably a two- or three- -- two- or three-week period of time there...


WATTS: ... that I think any president could see their numbers dip a bit, if you are driven by the numbers.

HANNITY: You know -- and -- and they are good numbers, and there are two polls -- a vast majority support the job he's doing. Alan forgot two important parts of this poll.

Con -- do they think he could be trusted to keep his word? And the majority polled said, in fact, yes. Think he has strong leadership qualities? In fact, the majority said yes, Congressman, which is sort of a refreshing change of pace.

I want to ask you this question. There is a -- a "Washington Times" story today. House Democrats were told in a closed-door session that the president's making huge inroads with the Hispanic community, and they're afraid that he might even get as much as 50 percent of the vote in the next coming election.

The message and the consensus coming out of that House Democrat closed-door meeting was to go out with the message that George W. Bush isn't friendly to the Hispanic community and attack him in the Hispanic community. Isn't this what they do all the time, and how should the president deal with that?

WATTS: Well, I think the president needs to deal with it by producing, do in the Hispanic community what he did when he was governor of Texas. He got 48 percent of the Hispanic vote for re-election in the State of Texas back in 1998. He got over 30 percent of the Hispanic vote in the presidential election in 2000, in last November. So the president needs to work on making sure that every child, including Hispanic kids, that they get a good education...

HANNITY: Well...

WATTS: ... that those people who are out there working in the Hispanic community and trying to build a business -- that you create policies that's not hostile to those businesses, not -- not hostile to people...

HANNITY: But here's...

WATTS: ... being able to bring home their money to pay their bills.

HANNITY: Here's the bigger issue, though.

WATTS: That's what -- that's what you do, and I think he's going to do that. He's done that already.

HANNITY: Congressman, early -- early in the week, I read a report that the Democrats were ecstatic that their attacks on the Bush administration -- even though he took office in January -- the attacks on him being tied to, quote, "big oil" and the energy crisis -- that he's getting the blame for it because they've been on an all-out attack mode with Chris Lehane and Fabiani and Gray Davis all leading the way in that regard, and they were successful.

Now they see that he is -- the Hispanic community likes what he's doing. They don't like it, and they basically telegraphed that they're going to go out there, and they're going to attack him and say, "He's not your friend." I just find this type of - these tactics deplorable.

WATTS: And I think the American people, Sean, in the end will see that. I think the American people are saying -- will say to that, "Hey, look, you can tell us what you're against and you can beat up on other people, but what's your plan?" You know, "What's your program to educate our kids?"

The president's already submitted his plan, and it's passed overwhelmingly. "What's your plan to help American families pay their bills and buy their kids' school clothes?" The president submitted a plan to do that. It passed the House, passed the Senate. He signed it. With tax relief, those...

COLMES: Thank you, Congressman.

WATTS: Those things -- that's what the American people are looking for. They're looking for production not obstruction.

COLMES: Thank you very much.

By the way, 49 percent said they could trust him to keep his word in that...

HANNITY: Excuse me -- 4 -- and there was a majority. Thank you.

COLMES: Forty-nine percent.

Coming up -- coming up next...

HANNITY: It's a majority. That's right.

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