Commentary Magazine


We Miss Bush!

This, from Democratic pollster Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, caused quite a stir yesterday: “[B]y a 50-42 margin voters [in Ohio] say they’d rather have George W. Bush in the White House right now than Barack Obama. Independents hold that view by a 44-37 margin and there are more Democrats who would take Bush back (11%) than there are Republicans who think Obama’s preferable (3%).” Jensen extracted this message:

A couple months ago I thought the Pennsylvanias and Missouris and Ohios of the world were the biggest battlegrounds for 2010 but when you see numbers like this it makes you think it’s probably actually the Californias and the Wisconsins and the Washingtons.

There’s not much doubt things are getting worse for Democrats…and they were already pretty bad. Somehow the party base needs to get reinvigorated over the next two months or there’s going to be a very, very steep price to pay.

All that is true, and confirms the growing sense that the wheels are coming off the Democrats’ bus. Observing the last month or so — the BP oil spill, the economic numbers, the steady erosion in Democrats’ polling numbers — liberal pundits have slowly come to terms with the actual political landscape. If there is a 10-point gap in Gallup polling — which is registered and not likely voters — we really are talking about very big losses for the Democrats.

But the most delicious part of this was the Bush comparison. Obama has, for his entire candidacy and presidency, blamed Bush for practically everything. He has contorted his predecessor’s policy decisions — including downplaying all talk of democracy promotion and reversing a reasonable approach to terrorist prosecutions — in order to be the not-Bush president. But now, the public likes Bush better. Think of that. Recall how reviled — unfairly, very unfairly, I would submit — Bush was at the end of his term. And in a mere 18 months, the public has decided that for all his shortcomings, he was a better president than the guy who is there now.

This tells us several things. First, Obama’s juvenile buck-passing hasn’t and won’t work. The election game plan of threatening the return of Bush isn’t going to fly. Heck, the voters wouldn’t mind having him back! Second, Obama has, to a degree we have not seen in recent years, shied away from acknowledging error. His “out” was always that Bush had messed things up — far worse than we even imagined. Now with Bush-bashing proven to be entirely counterproductive, what will Obama do to deflect blame? And finally, you have to keep faith with the American people. They may get impatient and lose perspective, but they remain exceedingly fair and possess a large reservoir of common sense (e.g., a mosque at Ground Zero is absurd, Bush was a decent man who made tough calls, we shouldn’t dump on loyal allies). It is good to be reminded of that.

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