This is neither surprising nor illogical, but it is a bit annoying. In the year that’s passed since Bush left the White House, the public has (in entirely non-quantifiable terms) softened on their look back on ol’ Dubya. The man that was once vilified as the harbinger of the American apocalypse and the end of pax americana is shaping up to be looked upon more favorably than he was on his way out.
I thought the public would soften on Bush for another reason: the capacity of people to revise history with their own nuances, remaking it to suit their leanings. Anyone who has encountered a conservative insisting Nixon was a great president, for the sake of contrarianism and point-proving, should know what I’m talking about.
So my prediction is a bit different from Fish’s. Mine is that one day, in the not terribly distant future, it will become vogue for neocons to go around claiming Bush was the best president in the history of the United States, despite the fact that, by the end of his tenure, some in the neocon movement had basically accepted that he was pure political baggage and should be disowned for his government spending, at least (though they still liked his tax cuts).
It’s true, and Good misses the most obvious example: Reagan. Ronnie was not a popular president for much of his actual presidency (usually hovering in the familiar 50% area), the policies he enacted were downright disastrous, he was plagued by some of the worst scandals in presidential history (a blowjob has nothing on Iran-Contra), and he left Bush senior a horrible mess that was so difficult to clean up it tanked Bush the Elder’s potential second term.
Yet TIME called the cowboy president Man of the Century, largely because his more nuanced and technical failings were washed over in a sea of “tear down this wall!” and personality traits. Ronald Reagan went from Reaganomics and soaring debts to defeating communism and being a tough old bastard. Bush is likely to follow suit, especially if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan turn out successful. He’ll go from the bumbling economy crusher to the forward thinking anti-terrorism champion.
Plus, let’s face it, we as a people tend to want to think the best of others. That’s why guys like Tom DeLay can show up on Dance with the Stars and get applause. We like people to be good people at heart, and as the scars of their actions fade we have a tendency to forgive them and focus on the positive aspects. If you want to call Bush a good guy, well that’s fine. I think he’s likely a grand person, seems amiable and friendly and I have no doubts he’s a devoted father. But let’s not mince words: he was a shitty, shitty president.