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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush's Address Comes at Low Point

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush planned to reach out to the opposition in his State of the Union address Tuesday night with new and recycled proposals on health care, energy, immigration and education, but the uproar over his decision to send more U.S. troops to Iraq has eclipsed potential consensus on domestic policy.

As he addresses a Congress controlled by Democrats for the first time since he took office, Bush faces deep skepticism inside the chamber, even within the House Republican leadership, which Monday made proposals intended "to hold the Bush administration ... accountable" for the progress of his latest Iraq plan.

The doubt on Capitol Hill reflects the continuing erosion of Bush's public support across the country. His approval rating is at the lowest level of his presidency, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, and only twice in the past six decades has a president delivered his annual speech to the nation in a weaker condition in the polls -- Harry S. Truman in the midst of the Korean War in 1952 and Richard M. Nixon in the throes of Watergate in 1974.

For the first time, majorities of Americans say Bush cannot be trusted in a crisis, has not made the country safer and should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq to avoid further casualties rather than leave them until civil order is restored. And, in a sign of intensifying opposition, a majority -- 51 percent -- for the first time expressed strong disapproval of Bush's performance, compared with 17 percent who strongly approved.

"The world changed significantly on election day, and the only people who were surprised were them," Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio said of Bush and his aides. He added: "[Now] they've backed themselves into a tough corner, and the problem is his continued insistence for the troop increase, which flies in the face of what 70 percent of Americans want, makes him look ... like [he's saying], 'I'll listen to you, but I'll do what I want anyway.'"

The poll indicates that Bush has made no headway in selling his decision to bolster troop levels in Iraq by 21,500, with 65 percent now opposing it, compared with 61 percent the night of his Jan. 10 nationally televised address. Three in five Americans trust congressional Democrats more than Bush to deal with Iraq, and the same proportion want Congress to try to block his troop-increase plan.

Bush's overall approval rating of 33 percent matches the lowest it has been in Post-ABC polls since he became president, and 71 percent say the country is seriously off track, the highest such expression of national pessimism in more than a decade. By contrast, newly installed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is enjoying a honeymoon, with 54 percent approving her handling of the job.

While Bush was expected to devote about half of Tuesday's 40-minute-plus speech to Iraq, the broader battle with Islamic radicals and other foreign policy matters, advisers said they understood that only sustained and visible progress on the ground in Iraq might change American minds about the war. The best Bush can hope for tonight, they said, is to prevent a wholesale defection by Republicans to buy enough time for his plan to work.