Friday, December 12, 2008

A contrast in stature

Inspiring confidence...
I recall a lecture I attended, back in my undergraduate days, at the Oregon Institute of Technology, in which my statistics instructor, Professor Hess engaged a student in the meaning of statistics and raw data. The subject was basketball, and the propensity of African-Americans to be more successful than Caucasians. Professor Hess argued that, as the numbers clearly showed, African-Americans were better than Caucasians at basketball. African-Americans comprised only 11% of the population of the United States at that time, and yet, were disproportionally represented (to the tune of 79%) in the National Basketball Association, which we assumed to be the highest level of basketball achievement.

"But those numbers don't account for cultural differences," an indignant (white) student protested. "Most blacks grow up in inner cities where they have few other forms of recreation beyond basketball. They play basketball every day. They live it. Your numbers don't reflect that."

"I'm afraid you're missing the point," Professor Hess replied. "The numbers imply nothing about the 'why' or the 'how.' The numbers simply point up the fact."

I relate this anecdote to head off any indignant conservative whining about the results of a recent NBC/WSJ poll. The poll shows that the public has made a judgment about the contrast in stature between Barack Obama and Junior Bush. And, guess what? Junior comes out a loser. Big time.

According to the poll, President-elect Obama enjoys the approval of 67% of respondents, with only 16% disapproving. Compare that to the 48/35 approval/disapproval rating of Junior during his transition period back in December 2000. A number like that indicates that even a significant percentile of Republicans are happy with the job that Obama is doing.

Pollster Bill McInturff said this: “Compared to Bill Clinton in ’93 or Bush in ’01, we’re seeing a president who has been given a longer leash by the American public. This is not a traditional start of a presidency where people give you just a couple of months.”

The poll also showed that people have confidence in Obama.
  • 80% say he will improve the global perceptions of the United States;
  • 73% say he will "fix" the economy;
  • 70% say he will accomplish a military withdrawal from Iraq within 16 months;
  • 61% say he will ease the tax burden on the middle class.

...not so much.
Junior, on the other hand, doesn't seem to fare as well in the public perception.
  • 79% say they will not miss him;
  • 48% say history will view him as one of the worst presidents ever.
That second number is astronomically high compared to the numbers that Clinton (18%) and Daddy Bush (6%) racked up in similar polls when each of them left office.

"But," a Bush dead-ender might say, "the media loves Obama. They've put him on a pedestal. He hasn't been subjected to the kind of scrutiny that Bush has endured. Bush has been treated unfairly by history. How could he have foreseen the financial calamity that is now upon us? How is it his fault that Katrina drowned New Orleans? How is he responsible for Russian aggression in Georgia? Or for any of those other things? The media has always hated Bush. That's not his fault."

And I might reply: "Obama has shown more poise and intelligence in the 6 or 7 press conferences he has given since the election than Bush has in 8 years. And, don't forget, Bush avoided communicating with the public throughout his tenure. We can only speculate as to why. And regarding the financial calamity, it was Bush laissez faire policies that created this mess. Bush didn't brew up the storm that drowned New Orleans, but he ate birthday cake with John McCain while the rest of us watched the city go under. Bush squandered our international prestige by flaunting international law for his stinky 'Bush Doctrine' which set the precedent for Putin's actions in Georgia. And neither the press nor Congress has ever held Bush responsible for any of the myriad of constitutional transgressions he has perpetrated on this nation."

But, if my conservative friend and I were to say these things, it would be a waste of breath, anyway. As Professor Hess pointed out in my statistics class all those years ago, the numbers simply point up the facts.

People believe in Obama. People despise Junior.

1 comment:

Claude said...

It will be refreshing to have a president who isn't a dunce and who didn't just "get through" college but is instead a scholar, an enlightened thinker, a visionary, an inspiring leader, a dedicated athlete, an unashamedly loving husband and father, an orator, a true statesman, and a regular guy. Bush put all of his effort into trying to be just one of those (the last one) and he couldn't even pull that one off without looking fake and awkward. What a loser. But what a winner in Obama. For you, for me, for the world. On the other hand, thank you Mr. Bush for providing such a contrast so as to make the choice so overwhelmingly clear in 2008.