After four years and counting of Barack Obama, George W. Bush is looking pretty good. That's the nut of a poll in The Washington Post, of all places, and it makes a happy coincidence with the opening Thursday of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Though still slightly under water, as the campaign wise men might put it, the former president's job-approval rating is now at 47 percent, up 14 points from his last day in office — and tied with President Obama's 47 percent. Mr. Obama succeeded Mr. Bush in no small part by blaming the Great Recession (and everything else) on the Bush economic policies. Mr. Obama still rarely lets a day go by without bashing Mr. Bush, but the public now recalls the Bush policies fondly. Approval of his economic policies is up 19 percent from 2009.
This sharp change in public opinion confounds historians who insist that it takes years, if not decades, for a substantial revision of public opinion of a president's legacy. Obamanomics has reduced the standard of living for many Americans, and they pine for the recent past. T-shirts bearing an illustration of a smirking Mr. Bush with the slogan "Miss me yet?" are flying off the shelves.
There are reasons to withhold a full embrace of the Bush presidency. At the beginning of his term, Mr. Bush never used his veto pen to check congressional excess. In its final year, the Bush administration went on a wild spending spree, blowing billions on the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout of Wall Street greed and incompetence. Debate over the Iraq adventure simmers still. Even the elevation of John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court — which seemed like a good idea at the time — looked more like a mistake after the chief justice rescued Obamacare with a decision that astonished the conservative justices who thought Chief Justice Roberts was joining them in rescuing the Constitution from Mr. Obama's abuse.
But there's no arguing that the fundamentals of the economy were stronger under Mr. Bush. Filling up at the gasoline pump took half as much money as now. The jobless rate was under 6 percent during most of Mr. Bush's presidency, and from December 2005 to November 2007, it was under 5 percent. Today, high unemployment has become the "new normal," with the official rate at or above 7.5 percent.
Nevertheless, Mr. Obama built his re-election campaign on the message that he inherited America's economic decline from George W., and he needed another term to fix things. Americans are not-so-slowly coming to realize that borrowing trillions of dollars more in debt, with taxes growing like mushrooms after an April shower, and tossing around taxpayer money on every boondoggle calling itself "green" won't make the economy thrive again. We can expect Mr. Obama's approval rating to fall further and Mr. Bush's to continue to rise. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
The Washington Times
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.