George W. Bush always claimed that he would be vindicated by history. Even he might be surprised at how quickly history worked its magic. His personal approval rating is now at 47 percent, the highest they've been since just after his re-election — as it should be: he's succeeded admirably as an ex-president. After years away from the spotlight, he's given a couple newspaper interviews and said, "There's no need to defend myself." He's dedicating his presidential library this week. His charming dog paintings have been released to the public. And people are reconsidering some aspects of his legacy. National Journal's Ron Fournier wrote on Tuesday, "Go Ahead, Admit It: George W. Bush Is a Good Man."
Sure, esteemed Columbia University historian Eric Foner decided Bush was the worst president ever. He left office with a 22 percent approval rating. This had something to do with the policies he put in place. By 2007, 61 percent of Americans thought the Iraq war was a mistake, and in March, on the tenth anniversary of the war, 53 percent of Americans thought it was a mistake. By 2009, a majority of Americans thought the Afghanistan war wasn't worth fighting. Bruce Bartlett, a former economic adviser for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, has said the nation's unhappy fiscal state is the younger Bush's fault. Fournier's reassessment notes the former president's legacy "includes Bush’s responses to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and bogus claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — all worth exploring skeptically." Sure, 9/11 happened on Bush's watch, but, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin writes, after that, "there was no successful attack on the homeland"!
But there are other ways of looking at Bush in a more positive light, namely ways that are not so closely related to being president. Fournier wanted to "discuss something that gets less attention from the White House press corps — the essential humanity and decency of our presidents." Former Bush staffers Karl Rove and Dana Perino, who knew Bush as a man more than most Americans, tweeted the story enthusiastically. If you just look at Bush that way, he's a great guy. Let's count his many wonderful qualities.
George W. Bush is punctual.
Long-time adviser Karen Hughes asked him years ago why he was always early for appointments. “Late is rude,” Bush replied. He thought that if people were going to take the time to see him, he shouldn’t keep them waiting.
George W. Bush is good at remembering names.
He remembered names of the spouses and children of his staff, and insisted that hard work at the White House not be an excuse to let family life suffer.
George W. Bush is good at making up nicknames.
A "List of nicknames used by George W. Bush" has it's own Wikipedia page. He called a travel aide "Altoid Boy." He called Dick Cheney "Big Time." He called NBC News' David Gregory "Little Stretch," since he was one inch shorter than Bloomberg News' Dick Kyle ("Stretch"), who was one inch shorter than 6'7" Bill Sammon of Washington Times ("Super Stretch.")
George W. Bush is an athletic man.
In 2002, The New York Times reported:
He typically runs three miles four times a week, with average times from 6:45 minutes to 7:15 minutes a mile. He also routinely cross-trains with free weights for 45 minutes twice a week and an eliptical trainer.
George W. Bush is a charming dog painter.
The Atlantic Wire has speculated that Bush is the dog in many of his dog paintings.
George W. Bush decorated the Oval Office tastefully.
Design experts told The New York Times in 2010 that Bush had chosen an excellent Oval Office rug.
Bush's rug (left) looks particularly good when compared to President Obama's boring taupe (right).
The National Review's Jim Geraghty notes that Bush and Obama now have the same approval rating. Perhaps this means that when compared to Obama, people think better of Bush. But it's also possible that when Obama leaves office, his numbers will climb, too. But we cannot fathom that approval ratings will rise for Obama's rug.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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