Polls: Amid The Bush Presidential Library Dedication, Bush Bounces Back!
Today in Dallas Texas, the dedication of a second Bush Presidential Library is being celebrated. Yesterday, he told Bret Baer of Fox News that the presidential library will be a place where “the facts will be on display.” Historically, President Bush is breaking all of the rules.
When President Bush left office in January 2009, amid the financial crisis and two unpopular wars, his average approval rating was 33.5%. As dismal as that number may seem, it was an improvement of 10 points from October 2008, when the average of reputable polls was 24%. In the 26 consecutive months before his term ended, President Bush had an approval rating below 40%, which is the longest sub-40% streak for a president’s approval rating since polling began in the 1930s.
These days, however, President Bush is making polling history in a way that alludes to a positive light shining on his legacy. If the academics and the media weren’t planning on a fair assessment of his 8-year tenure, the American people may force them into a course correction.
Most presidents, even the unpopular ones, rebound after they leave the oval office in the White House. The amount of time for the American people to begin to remember them in a positive light has varied. Jimmy Carter’s approval rating just before he left office was 31%, and it took a twenty-year period to recover until it began retreating again in 2010. President Clinton, who for the most part enjoyed relatively positive approval ratings, had been plagued over the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his approval rating took a bit of a hit. It took a 7-year period for Bill Clinton to again see the numbers he enjoyed when the DJIA was making a reach for the stars.
In the case of President Bush, his approval rating has made an astonishing recovery over that last 4 or so years. Especially when you consider how terrible they were. With the dedication of the Bush Presidential Library this week, several pollsters have revisited the 43rd President’s approval rating. The average of polls finds that President Bush has an average approval rating of 48.5%, or for comparison, roughly the same as President Obama. Following the first major terrorist attack since September 11, 2001, Barack Obama has been witnessing a collapse of his approval rating, which of course is the complete opposite from President Bush’s numbers. In late September, 2001, President Bush’s average approval rating was in the same territory as the Milky Way Galaxy – 91%. On the other hand, President Obama currently has an average approval rating of 47.78%, which represents an average drop of 4% since the Boston Marathon bombings.
Ironically, the groups that are largely responsible for the increase in President Bush’s approval rating are members of the Democrat party. Among moderate-conservative Democrats, Mr. Bush’s approval rating has increased from a meager 10% by 20 points to approximately 31% on average. No doubt this can be attributed to older Democrats in large part, as his approval among seniors has increased over 20 points and now stands at 57%. But that is not the whole story. Self-described liberals approve of President Bush by an average of 26%, up from 10% in January, 2009.
Some historians are discussing the academic considerations of Mr. Bush’s presidency. Stephen Knott, a U.S. Naval War College professor, told Fox News yesterday:
I wish that some of my fellow scholars, particularly historians and law professors and political scientists, would do what academics are supposed to do, which is to bide their time, do the actual research before proclaiming a presidency a failure. It takes a long time for documents, for oral history interviews, particularly classified documents, to emerge. And then you get a fuller, more complete picture of a presidency.
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkly, and author of “The Great Deluge,” said that President Bush’s approval spike, despite the historical precedent, did not particularly surprise him. However, he is a historian who analyzes what he has been taught to in the world of academia, so it doesn’t surprise me that he misses the larger picture. He commented yesterday:
We pummel presidents when they’re in the White House. We give them a hard time. Then they leave and they write a memoir that becomes an instant bestseller. Journalists ask softball questions, and then they open up a presidential library. And people forgive a lot of the mistakes and say, hey, he brought our country through some tough times. I think that because 9/11 is such a defining moment in our lives — like Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination — people will start remembering 9/11. George W. Bush, in my opinion, did a pretty good job of uniting the country in those weeks of dire need. He communicated well; the government functioned. And we did not get hit again. We weren’t struck again after 9/11. He did the best he could.
Brinkly, whose book was a critical analysis of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, makes some valuable points. Yet, he missed something that others seem to be missing as well. Why are President Obama’s numbers nowhere near the Milky Way Galaxy as President Bush’s after a terror attack? Hindsight is 20/20, and for the past 4 years, the American people have been listening to his successor bash his predecessor as he remained dignified and silent. President Bush refused to criticize Mr. Obama in return, and perhaps, the American people agreed with a great deal of what Mr. Obama was saying. After all, Obama squeezed by his reelection as the only president to win a second term in office with a drop in support across the board from his first term electoral victory.
After four years, however, and several terrorist attacks later – including the latest on American soil – Americans are starting to do a comparison. Weighing the difference between these two men is not difficult, although you may disagree with one of them strongly in political ideology. Mr. Bush was comfortable in his own skin, and more important, with the view he had of the world – and it showed. President Obama is shrinking, he has ever-been unsure of himself and his view of the world. Furthermore, Barack Obama made a significant miscalculation when sizing up the sentiments among the American people regarding the War on Terror. Americans may have disagreed with George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, but they never disagreed with the predicate of the War on Terror, or any of the presumptions that one needs to make regarding radical Islam. As a New York native and veteran who enlisted in the Army following the attacks on 9/11, I myself have been highly critical of the Iraq War, but there was an undeniable element to my Commander-in-Chief’s leadership. President Bush was never afraid to make those presumptions, and in addition, to formulate policy accordingly.
President Obama never understood that a disapproval of Iraq, was not a gesture of open arms by the American people to the Muslim world. Unlike Bush, Barack Obama has not been comfortable with this posture from America and has done everything he could to reverse that image for the benefit of our reputation within the Muslim world. Not surprisingly to those of us who live in the real world, it hasn’t worked and people have died. Americans simply don’t like other Americans getting killed Mr. Obama, and Mr. Bush has been the benefactor of a collective of fond memories from a time when we had someone who we knew was doing everything he could to prevent that from happening – and it made us feel safe.
In closing, on a personal note, I had the privilege to meet President George W. Bush during my service in the military. The Army found me in a kickboxing ring in Atlantic City fighting a man who had 40 pounds on me, and instead of questioning my sanity, the recruiter offered me an opportunity – and I took it. Without warning and without media presence, the President surprised troops who were training under the 18X-Ray Special Forces Pipeline program that he authorized. He looked me in the eye and thanked me for answering our country’s call, apologized for having to give the order to put us in harm’s way, gave everyone a handshake and a hug, took our names, and was gone as fast as he came. To this day, those of us who were in attendance that day still receives a “Thank You” note every year. When my father calls to tell me it has arrived, I always find myself puzzled. What a strange and peculiar action for a man who was bent on oil and a family vendetta?
The average of polls referenced is not weighted on “credibility” for analysis in this article, and includes Gallup – Rasmussen – Washington Post/ABC News – AP/Gfk – NBC/Wall Street Journal – Gravis Marketing – Fox News
Below is the full survey result from Fox News