Dubya getting the reprieve of short memories
by David Atkins
Americans have short memories, it seems:
For the first time since 2005, more Americans now view former President George W. Bush favorably than unfavorably, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday.It would be a mistake to see these numbers as indicative of growing conservatism in the country. Most Americans still blame Bush for the economic crisis (even though it was actually a quite bipartisan push to deregulate the financial industry that caused it), and President Obama still has a 51% approval rating.
Forty-nine percent have a favorable view of Bush, while 46 percent view him unfavorably, the poll found. His ratings have risen by more than 10 points among both parties since he left office, with 84 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats now rating him favorably.
At Bush's lowest point, in 2008, just 32 percent of Americans rated him positively, according to Gallup. Like most recent presidents, however, he saw his numbers rise after leaving the White House.
Bush has largely stayed off the radar since he was president. When he made a public appearance for the dedication of his presidential library in April, several pollsters recorded the highest ratings for Bush in years, although most ratings were still net negatives.
"The recovery in Bush's image is not unexpected, given that Americans generally view former presidents positively," Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones notes in the poll's release. "Gallup's favorable ratings for Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all exceeded 60% when last measured."
"But Bush's image improved more from 2009 to 2010 than it has in the past three years," he wrote, "even with a recent round of positive publicity from the opening of his presidential library, so that is not a guarantee he will see the 60%+ favorable ratings enjoyed by other former presidents anytime soon."
They are indicative, however, of the dynamic that makes politicians so eager to "look forward not backward" and refuse to hold individuals in power accountable for wrongdoing. Americans are an optimistic lot, and we don't like to dwell on history. Unfortunately, that also makes us easy targets to relive the horrors of the past again and again while learning almost nothing from them.