Bill McGurn, President Bush’s former chief speechwriter, whom I interviewed in November while we were both on the National Review cruise, is spot-on when writes that as the president leaves Washington DC, “he carries with him the near-universal opprobrium of the permanent class that inhabits our nation’s capital. Yet perhaps the most important reason for this unpopularity is the one least commented on“:
Here’s a hint: It’s not because of his failures. To the contrary, Mr. Bush’s disfavor in Washington owes more to his greatest success. Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable.
Read the whole thing, and also note this hopeful sign:
Mr. Bush’s success in Iraq is equally infuriating, because it showed he was right and they wrong. Many in Washington have not yet admitted that, even to themselves. Mr. Obama has. We know he has because he has elected to keep Mr. Bush’s secretary of defense — not something you do with a failure.
Mr. Obama seems aware that, at the end of the day, he will not be judged by his predecessor’s approval ratings. Instead, he will soon find himself under pressure to measure up to two Bush achievements: a strategic victory in Iraq, and the prevention of another attack on America’s home soil. As he rises to this challenge, our new president will learn that when you make a mistake, the keepers of the Beltway’s received orthodoxies will make you pay dearly.
But it will not even be close to the price you pay for ignoring their advice and succeeding.
(H/T: Jennifer Rubin, who rounds up plenty of other inauguration morning links worth checking out, at Commentary.)