Why We Suddenly Miss Bush
Various polls report that George W. Bush in some states is now better liked than President Obama. Even some liberal pundits call for Bush, the now long-missed moderate, to draw on his recognized tolerance and weigh in on the Ground Zero mosque or the Arizona anti-immigration legislation. Apparently the erstwhile divider is now the healer that the healer Obama is not.
As President Obama’s polls dip, as Congress is widely disdained, and as the economy slumps, suddenly George Bush is missed. Why so? Let me list ten likely reasons.
1) The Obama record. We naturally compare Bush to his chief critic and successor Barack Obama — and find the latter increasingly wanting as time goes by. Obama turned Bush’s misdemeanor deficits into felonious trillion-dollar annual shortfalls. He will pile up more debt than any other prior president.
Indeed, if reelected, Obama will borrow more than all previous administrations combined. Bush was tarred in 2004 for a “jobless recovery” when unemployment hovered near 6%. It is now almost 10% and Obama still harps about “jobs saved.” Scott McClellan may have been singularly inept; we are not so sure after Robert Gibbs. For every Brownie there is a worse Van Jones or Anita Dunn. For Katrina we have BP. Bush’s NASA did space; Obama’s seems to prefer Muslim outreach. Bush’s prescription drug benefit was an unfunded liability; ObamaCare is a trillion-dollar financial black-hole. I could go on, but Obama’s lackluster record is improving Bush’s legacy every day.
2) Obama as Bush. Senator and then candidate Obama demagogued Bush on a variety of issues, which, as president, he simply flipped and endorsed. Remember Bush’s gulag at Guantanamo? Or how about the terror-producing Predators? Or the need for an immediate pull-out from Iraq? Or those terrible renditions and tribunals?
In case after case of national security, Obama dropped the cheap rhetorical one-upmanship, and, when invested with the responsibility of governance, simply adopted, or even trumped, the Bush protocols. General Petraeus, whose testimony Hillary once suggested required “a suspension of disbelief” and whom Obama cut off and did not allow to speak during his infamous 2007 Senate hearing, suddenly is to be Obama’s savior general.
Candidate Obama claimed the surge failed and all combat troops should be out of Bush’s Iraq war by March 2008. President Obama now calls Iraq a “remarkable chapter” as his vice president claims it as one of the administration’s “greatest achievements.” In short, almost daily, Obama is following the Bush anti-terrorism policies — the irony made worse by petulance and ingratitude in not acknowledging his debt.
3) Bush Did It. It is a uniquely American trait to shun whining and petulance. Rugged individualism and can-do optimism used to be ingrained in our national character, and even in our 11th hour have not wholly disappeared. So the public is tiring of Obama’s Pavlovian blaming of Bush. After 20 months, it is time for the president to get a life and quit the “heads you lose/tails I win” attitude about presidential responsibility. If he now takes credit for calm in Iraq without crediting the surge, then Obama can surely take blame for the anemic recovery — brought on by his own bullying of business that has frightened free enterprise into stasis. Note that Bush, unlike Clinton, has not engaged in emeritus tit-for-tat recrimination, and has kept largely quiet in dignified repose. Obama serially goes after Hannity, Limbaugh, and Beck by name; Bush let the slander of a Michael Moore or Keith Olbermann go unanswered.
4) Who is the real yuppie? The media tried to paint Bush as the privileged yuppie, masquerading as the Texas rancher, idly chain-sawing on his spread. But at least Bush went to the Texas outback for vacation and got his hands dirty. Obama’s problem is that Axelrod and Emanuel could not stage a chain-sawing task for Obama if they tried — severe injury would surely follow. The bowling moment in the campaign was as disastrous as the later Obama girlish first pitch. From 2001-3, presidential golf was proof of aristocratic disdain and laziness. Suddenly from 2009-2010 — given that Obama has hit the greens more in 20 months than Bush did in eight years — the Ministry of Truth redefined the game as necessary egalitarian relaxation. Given the choice, the public would probably prefer a little overdone Texas “smoke ‘em out” braggadocio to worries over the price of arugula.
5) Michelle is no Laura. Remember the narrative: conservative women are elitists who decorate, buy nice clothes, and play Barbie; liberal first ladies are doers who are independent feminists that can’t be bothered by inanities like fashion and play. But Michelle this summer enjoyed a movable feast from Marbella to Martha’s Vineyard, in designer clothes and shades. Laura Bush used to vacation at the national parks. Laura Bush often disagreed with her husband and sometimes offered a liberal “Oh, come on, George” to her husband’s occasional flight-suit strutting. Michelle, in contrast, is the second half of the partisan Obama tag-team, perennially whining that “they raised the bar.” After “downright mean country” and “never before been proud,” we miss Laura Bush’s common sense and nonpartisanship. Ga-ga media talk of Michelle’s biceps, not the earthy decency reminiscent of a Laura Bush.