— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) January 22, 2018
You knew it was just a matter of time, right? That good ol’ boy, George W. Bush, is now seen favorably by nearly two-thirds of the nation’s populace. According to the latest CNN poll, W has a 61% approval rating, as opposed to just a 33% disapproval rating. If you’re playing along at home, this is almost a complete flip from where he was on Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day, when he had just a 34% approval rating. Freaking democrats approve of W, 54-41.
Even more mind-boggling is the fact that W had the highest disapproval rating of any president in history during his final year in office. 71% of Americans disapproved of Bush’s job performance in May of 2008. So what gives?
In your humble author’s opinion, it has a lot more to do with the current president than W, himself. In order to understand a little more, let’s take a look at how we viewed another president of the recent past—William Jefferson Clinton.
Don’t forget that Bill Clinton could never have happened without Ross Perot—Perot’s 19 million voters were much more closely aligned with George H.W. Bush’s policies than Clinton’s, and had Perot not entered the race, Clinton would have fallen well short of the nomination (although not everybody agrees with me on this). The country had just endured 12 years of fairly conservative policies under Reagan and Bush, and Clinton appeared to be radically different. He was the MTV generation’s president, a man who felt comfortable discussing his underwear choices on television, and seemed almost nonchalant about his libidinous past (if you haven’t read Primary Colors, you should).
Conservative Baby Boomers fuckin’ hated him. Legit hated him. His approval rating in his first term were under 40 percent.The 1994 midterm elections were brutal. The Republicans picked up 54 house seats, not to mention 8 seats in the senate. In 1998, Clinton became the second president in history to be impeached, thanks to Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky (have you seen Monica lately? There’s a woman who got much better looking with age). Anyway, you know all this stuff, right? The end result was, despite some hanging chads, we got another Bush in the White House, and the rest is history.
But then came Barack Obama, the man with the most liberal voting record in the history of the US Senate. And after eight years of middling accomplishments in the real world and culture shockwave changes in the feelz world, Republicans starting thinking—hey, maybe Clinton wasn’t so bad after all. I mean, he was a little bit liberal, yeah, but he was all for defending borders, keeping marriage traditional, bombing the hell out of some people we didn’t like, you know, that sort of thing. As the country shifted left under Obama, more and more people started thinking of Clinton as a Moderate. Republicans thought, hey, we’d take another Bill Clinton over eight more years of this Obama shit. In fact, Hillary Clinton thought she’d be able to rely on some “Clinton Republicans” voting her way.
And now after a year of Donald Trump’s presidency, a year in which he has done pretty much exactly what he said he would do in the campaign (even CNN and USA Today say so), a lot of people on the left are longing for the days of W. They might have thought he was stupid (as most Yale and Harvard graduates are), but he seemed genuine, honest and forthright in a way that could certainly never be said about his successor. He’s done more for Africa than Mr. Obama ever did, founding programs that have saved literally millions of lives from disease and hunger. His paintings of soldiers are widely regarded as being sophisticated and emotionally deep.
The Washington Post’s top art critic had this to say:
“No matter what you think of George W. Bush, he demonstrates in this book and in these paintings virtues that are sadly lacking at the top of the American political pyramid today: curiosity, compassion, the commitment to learn something new and the humility to learn it in public,” said Mr Kennicott.
“There is ample evidence that the former president is more humble and curious than the Swaggering President Bush he enacted while in office. And his curiosity about art is not only genuine but relatively sophisticated.”
Aaaaannnnd there it is. We, the liberals, didn’t care much for President Bush. But Citizen Bush? He seems like a good dude. He’s a painter, man. He’s simple. Most importantly, he isn’t Donald Trump. And when he’s spoken about Trump, just like Clinton did when he spoke about Obama, he hasn’t always had kind things to say. It’s not clear if W even voted for Trump.
This is, of course, a naive and simple interpretation of George W. Bush. He’s still one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in America. He’s the architect of a lot of Neocon politics, and he was the driving force behind two costly, deadly wars. And he was likely much more socially conservative than Mr. Trump—he was a staunch evangelical, pro-life Christian. The country was much further to the right socially under Mr. Bush than it is today, although it’s hard to say how much of that is due to Mr. Obama’s policies continuing under Mr. Trump.
But it seems clear that, regardless of reason, the country would much rather have a third term of W than a second term of The Donald. In fact, in a hypothetical contest between Obama and W, we’d have a real race on our hands. Which makes you wonder a bit—if the pigs are wearing top hats and walking on two legs, who can tell the difference?