The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin — who admitted to misleading her readers with her unfailingly adoring coverage of Mitt Romney during last year’s presidential campaign — is celebrating the news of George W. Bush’s highest approval ratings in seven years in a post entitled “Bush is back“:
It took less than 4 1/2 years of the Obama presidency for President George W. Bush to mount his comeback. While doing absolutely nothing on his own behalf (he’s been the most silent ex-president in my lifetime), his approval is up to 47 percent according to the Post/ABC poll. That’s up 14 points from his final poll in office. For comparison’s sake President Obama’s RCP average is a tad over 49 percent.
She then rambles through a list of accomplishments that contrast the last president with the current guy in the White House — whom you’ll notice she refers to simply as “Obama,” while the 43rd president is reverently called “President George W. Bush.” This list goes through yogic contortions to spin Bush’s “successes.”
“Unlike Obama’s tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11,” Rubin notes, joining the chorus of Republicans who say, “Bush kept us safe — except for that 9/11 thing!”
She also calls the unfunded Medicare Part D ” fiscally sober” in contrast with the “unpopular and exorbitant” Obamacare — which is actually paid for — that Obama “foisted” on America. Somehow, foisting an unpopular plan doesn’t match Bush’s “huge political risks,” including “the surge,” which Bush launched after four years of losing the war in Iraq.
Most hilariously, Rubin credits George W. Bush with “7 1/2 years of job growth.” Bush created on average 20,000 jobs a month. If you exclude 2008, that number is 60,000. When Bush left office, the economy was losing nearly a million jobs a month.
Crediting W. for the bubble that he let explode is like pointing out that on average, the Titanic was somewhere in the middle of the ocean, or crediting the Hindenburg with an incredibly successful launch.
There are reasons Bush’s popularity is rising, but none of them have anything to do with his abysmal presidency.
Here are five reasons that he’s not, in fact, “back.”
Presidents Generally Become More Popular After They Leave Office
It’s not unusual for a former president to advance in public esteem after he’s left the fray of partisan politics, but neither is it guaranteed. In polls four to five years after the end of their presidencies, Bush’s father gained 18 points in approval, but Bill Clinton slipped by 4 and Ronald Reagan lost 12. (Reagan later improved in retrospect; it just took more time.)
Both Clinton and Reagan were extremely popular at the end of their terms. The older and younger Bush both — to put it mildly — had room to grow when they left office. When George W. Bush left office, his approval rating was at 33 percent, tying Richard Nixon — who resigned in disgrace — for a record low.
Bush Has Been Silent And Mostly Apolitical
Perhaps the best choice George W. has made has been generally avoiding politics. He only appeared via video at the last two Republican National Conventions and has resisted outward condemnations of President Obama. His brother Jeb has been combative in defending the W. legacy, pushing the “kept us safe” myth while the senior Bush — who resigned from the NRA in protest in 1995 and worked with Bill Clinton on relief for Haiti following the the island country’s catastrophic earthquake — remains a beloved figure.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Bush Looks Good Compared To The Current GOP
Bush never pushed unpopular cuts or threatened to default on the debt. And while he appointed pro-life judges, he never pursued defunding Planned Parenthood.
Next to the party of Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” seems more appealing.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
History Will Not Be Kind To the Bush Presidency
Since he left office, Bush has constantly polled in the 30s among rankings of presidents. A recent inquiry into his “enhanced interrogation” tactics show he definitely ordered Americans to pursue illegal torture.
Rubin writes, “And, it turned out that the triumvirate of Iraq-Iran-North Korea really was the Axis of Evil.” Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Iran was cooperating with the United States until Bush made this statement. And North Korea was allowed to become a nuclear power during Bush’s administration.
Naming these countries the “Axis of Evil” did nothing except enrage Iran, as the Iraq invasion shifted the power in the Middle East toward Iran.
It Will Take Decades To Recover From The Bush Disaster
Bush-era policies are still responsible for most of our deficit. Rubin argues that President Obama ratified 99 percent of Bush’s tax cuts… without pointing out the disproportionate amount of those cuts that went to the richest Americans. These cuts exacerbated income inequality and led to a divide between the rich and the middle class that is larger than in any period since before the Great Depression.
Debt, divide and a destabilized Middle East haven’t gone away, even if Bush has.