Americans are notoriously fickle. Three separate times while he was president, George W. Bush’s approval rating plummeted to 25 percent. This, of course, was the same president whose approval rating soared to 90 percent after the 9/11 attacks.
As Bush’s helicopter lifted off the U.S. Capitol grounds for his return to Texas after Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration in January 2009, only one in three Americans approved of his performance as president.
Bush claims he never worries about polls or the judgment of history. When journalist Bob Woodward asked him in 2003 how history would judge the Iraq war, Bush declined to take the bait.“History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead,” he said.
As they often do with polarizing politicians, people have mellowed toward Bush. Nearly half of adults now approve of the way he handled his job as president. While about three in four Democrats still disapprove, that’s down from the nine in 10 Democrats who disapproved in 2008 of the way he did his job.
Bush’s approval rating overall equals Obama’s, the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll reported Tuesday. Such are the power of silence and absence.
In our ego-driven world, the idea of someone stepping off the national stage more or less voluntarily has definite appeal. Even his critics admired the way Bush picked up his paint brushes and went about his new life in Dallas, refusing to be drawn into the political fray.
He didn’t respond when Barack Obama and other Democrats blamed him for the mess he left. He skipped the 2008 Republican National Convention to stay in Washington after Hurricane Gustav, showing he did learn something from the disastrously slow response to Katrina. He declined an invitation to join Obama at Ground Zero after Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. Bush also stayed away from the Republican National Convention last year.
The 43rd president, in interviews surrounding the dedication Thursday of his presidential library, began to give his side of his eight White House years. For example, he vigorously defended the Medicare prescription drug benefit he expanded, despite Republican criticism that it was too big and costly.
“We were modernizing an antiquated system” already in place, he told the Dallas Morning News.
He regrets being unable to get an immigration bill through Congress, and he called for a “benevolent spirit” in the debate.