Commentary Magazine


Bush and Palin In Strong Year-End Showing

Some very interesting things have emerged in Gallup’s 2010 “Most Admired” survey. That America’s most admired man is Barack Obama is not one of them. He is the president, you know. And even when his job-approval ratings took a dramatic downward turn, polls continued to show that Americans liked him as a person, policies aside. May he figure out how to turn this enduring admiration into collective and sustainable national purpose.

Now for the fun part: Guess who has the No. 2 spot. None other than George W. Bush. Normally, there’d be nothing remarkable in the last president being the second-most admired man in the country. But because the anti-Bush attack machine had so doggedly tried to paint him as a frightening historical outlier it’s stunning to see him treated like any American president. So much for the validity of an eight-year long, millions-strong politico-cultural movement. Bush only goes up from here.

And speaking of ex-presidents, Bush beat out Bill Clinton for the No. 2 spot. The modern-day superhero of American politics came in third, one point behind the recent embodiment of political evil (Among independents, Clinton beat Bush by one percentage point). Amazing what two years of bad liberal policy will do to sharpen the assessment facilities of the American people.

And speaking of Clintons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton topped the most-admired female list. Again, Americans respect their sitting leaders.  It’s almost disturbingly difficult to point to anything noteworthy that Hillary Clinton has done this year. Okay, it is disturbingly difficult. Perhaps, she enjoyed the benefit of any comparison with her boss in the White House. The 2008 election still looms large in the national consciousness and the sense of “choice” between the two has never completely faded, especially among Democrats.

And speaking of the 2008 election, the Democrats’ national nightmare, Sarah Palin, came in second to Hillary. Palin beat out none other than omnipresent cultural goddess Oprah Winfrey, who came in third (Both beat out First Lady Michelle Obama, who came in fourth).

To my mind, the big win goes to Palin. For all the pundit chatter about her not being a viable contender for president, the public admires her more than the most beloved media personality in the country. Like Oprah, Palin channeled her talent to connect with Americans toward its most efficient use.  The Tea Party allowed her to showcase her ability, raise her market value, and serve a cause she believes in: America. Right before the eyes of antagonistic columnists and hostile comics she became the credible face of the most transformative political movement the country has seen in decades. Her faults are apparent enough, but it’s not hard to see how the right circumstances are able to bring her talents center stage.  And it’s not hard to see why everyone loves lists.