WASHINGTON – More Americans than ever say President Bush is doing a pitiful job with the war, and an almost equally overwhelming number of people think Iraq won’t turn out to be a stable democracy, a new poll showed Friday.

A whopping 71 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war, while only 27 percent say he’s done a good job, according to the AP-Ipsos poll.

Just nine percent of Americans believe the U.S. will end up with a clear-cut victory in Iraq, the poll indicated, while 63 percent said they don’t think the country will become a stable democracy.

The public opinion was so lousy that even Bush’s go-to issue – the economy – took a hit in the latest poll. His oversight of the economy sank to a 38 percent approval rating from last month’s 43 percent.

The cratering of support for Bush’s conduct of the war was evident on the floor of the Senate, where an emotional Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., ripped the strategy and tactics in Iraq.

“I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day,” Smith said.

“That is absurd. It may even be criminal,” added Smith, who voted for the resolution to go to war but said he had changed course after some soul-searching.

Some lawmakers who spent time in meetings Friday with Bush described him as being in denial and clueless about the American people’s desire to see U.S. forces return home from Iraq.

“He has yet to get the message the American people sent him on Nov. 7,” said Rep. Joe Crowley, D-New York, referring to the watershed midterm elections that ended GOP control of Congress.

Crowley, one of eight centrist Democrats who met with Bush in the Oval Office, said the President is going to “cherry-pick” certain recommendations from the Iraq Study Group’s report and ignore others.

Incoming Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois said it was much of the same at an earlier meeting between Bush and the bipartisan leaders of Congress.

“The President did not endorse the Iraq Study Group at this meeting, and his statements leave me questioning whether or not he is ever going to support their conclusions,” Durbin said.

Bush will have a series of briefings next week with Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council and outside experts. He is then expected to decide what steps he can take to try to reverse the deadly course that the Iraq war has taken for U.S. forces.

When Bush makes up his mind, he plans to deliver a speech to the nation before Christmas.


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