CNN's Wolf Blitzer failed to challenge Bill Bennett's assertion that the recent arrests of terrorism suspects in the United Kingdom "helps the president." In fact, national polling conducted after the alleged terror plot was exposed indicates that President Bush has received no appreciable boost in public support.
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On the August 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, conservative radio host and former Reagan Education Secretary Bill Bennett, when asked by host Wolf Blitzer to explain the "slight uptick" in President Bush's approval rating since June in the CNN poll, claimed that the recent arrests of terrorism suspects in the United Kingdom "helps the president." Blitzer offered no challenge to Bennett's claim, which is not supported by national polling conducted after the alleged terror plot was exposed. That polling indicates that Bush received no appreciable boost in public support. Indeed, the CNN poll to which Blitzer and Bennett were referring showed Bush's approval rating went up just two points -- from 40 percent to 42 percent -- since early August, within the poll's margin of error.
The CNN poll, conducted August 18-20, found that Bush's approval rating has risen five points overall since mid-June but only two points since the U.K. terror arrests were first reported on August 11. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.
As Media Matters for America has noted, the claim that the terror arrests gave Bush a "bounce" in the polls has been widely repeated in the media.
From the August 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: How do you explain the president's slight uptick?
BENNETT: You [fellow guest and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile] didn't sound like you thought he was up. He is -- well, he is up, he's up some, and these are very difficult times. It's been a very rough summer. Iraq is a very bad situation. And the other situation in the Middle East is very -- is very trying. But I think it's about leadership. I think it's about the fact that people are nervous. I think the London thing scared people, reminded people about terror. And we have been safe, and I think that helps the president.
BLITZER: Five years --
BENNETT: You bet.
BLITZER: -- since there's been a major terrorist attack --
BLITZER: -- here in the United States, which is something the Republicans clearly will point to. All of us are relieved about that, obviously, as well.