Earlier this week, S.E. Cupp wrote in the New York Daily News about how much she misses George W. Bush. Bush, she says, “looks better with each passing day,” and the reason, according to her, is Donald Trump.
Cupp noted that George W. Bush “left office with a 33% favorability rate, according to Gallup. By the time the [Miss Me Yet?] billboards were up in 2010, it had only recovered to the mid-40s. But in the years since, Bush has nearly doubled his popularity. A CNN poll from January 2018 has his approval at 61%. In just the two years since Trump became the Republican nominee for president, that number has climbed six points.” The public’s improved perception of Bush after leaving office was predictable, but Cupp suggests throughout her piece that Trump is responsible for Bush’s favorability improving so dramatically.
I know I’ll be called an establishment cuck for this, but after almost a year and a half of Trump’s antics — his tweets, his bullying, his lies, his lack of intellectual curiosity, his brittle inability to withstand scrutiny, his angry, uninformed blurting, his hostility toward valued Democratic institutions — it’s hard not to miss Bush.
But in 2018, with Trump as a backdrop, it’s no wonder we are increasingly open to reimagining Bush’s historic “awfulness,” and remembering how he wasn’t so bad, after all.
What Cupp failed to acknowledge is that Bush’s favorability was on an upward trend during the Obama years, and had reached positive territory in 2014… before Trump even announced his presidential campaign. Yet, the only mention of Obama in the entire article was in the opening sentence. While George W. Bush is a beneficiary of Trump Derangement Syndrome, that doesn’t change the fact that his favorability was improving before Trump, and would have continued to improve without him.
Bush’s improved public image has less to do with Trump than it has to do with the fact that the current Republican president (or presidential nominee) will always be the devil incarnate to the left, and it’s politically expedient to vilify the titular head the of the GOP as the worst ever while also feigning nostalgia for “the good old days” when a more palatable Republican was president or was nominated by the party as their presidential nominee.
So why should we care that Democrats call Trump “Hitler” and “Not My President” and long for the days when Bush (whom they called “Hitler” and “Not My President”) was in office? Does anyone believe this to be a genuine appreciation or just politically expedient reckoning? They don’t miss Bush now because Trump is Trump, they miss Bush now because he’s no longer in power and they got eight years of Obama.
Let’s consider the evidence.
In 2008, John McCain (currently the left’s favorite Republican) was compared to Hitler by Madonna at a concert. Had he been elected over Obama, she probably would have fantasized about blowing up the White House then as well. McCain was also likened to Nazis in an episode of The Family Guy. Left-wing website Slate also called the moderate McCain “worse than Bush.”
The next Hitler was Mitt Romney in 2012. Obama advisor David Axelrod even made a Romney/Hitler comparison. And various Democrat leaders and delegates were making similar comparisons. Now that Romney has spoken out against Trump, he’s not so bad.
Remember when liberal talk show host Bill Maher conceded that liberals had gone too far with their Hitler/Nazi/fascist rhetoric aimed at Bush, McCain, and Romney? “I know liberals made a big mistake because we attacked your boy Bush like he was the end of the world. And he wasn’t. And Mitt Romney we attacked that way. I gave Obama a million dollars because I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much or yours. Or John McCain.” Trump, of course, was different, according to Maher, because he’s the real “fascist.”
What Maher didn’t say was that after Donald Trump leaves office, the next Republican president will be the new “Hitler,” the new “fascist,” the new “Not My President” and all that rhetoric about Trump will one day be looked on with regret, because obviously, the next one has to be worse… otherwise, they’d be stuck debating policy.
Don’t believe me? Liberals have already laid down the groundwork for this shift from Trump Derangement to Trump Nostalgia by preemptively attacking Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s heir apparent to the Oval Office, as worse than Trump.
George Will over at the Washington Post recently opined that Pence was the “worst person in government.” Last year over at The Nation, Joan Walsh wrote about how conflicted she was over the hypothetical (and absurd) scenario of Trump’s resignation or impeachment, because “Pence is a far worse person” than Trump. Omarosa Manigault-Newman said on an episode of Celebrity Big Brother that “we would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became president.” Vanity Fair writer Abigail Tracy wrote a piece agreeing with Omarosa’s sentiment. Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen can’t decide whether Trump or Pence is worse. The New Yorker ran a piece last year titled “The Danger of President Pence.”
Is the pattern clear yet? Have you figured out it doesn’t matter if Trump had won in 2016, or if it was Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or maybe even John Kasich… anyone who opposes the left is branded as the new Hitler, and whether it is George W. Bush or Donald Trump, the left will find reason to be nostalgic for them once they are no longer a threat.
So, S.E. Cupp has gotten it wrong. George W. Bush’s improved favorability tells us less about Trump and more about the fickle attitudes of the left regarding who the worst Republican ever is. Well, the answer is: it will always be the one they are most threatened by at any given time because the next Republican in line will, as a matter of political strategy, always be branded as worse than those who came before.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book, The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis