Victor Davis Hanson: The George W. Bush Fixation





[Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.]

Barack Obama remains fixated on George W. Bush. For nearly two years, President Obama and his team have prefaced their explanations for the tough economy, the tough finances, and the tough situation abroad with a “Bush did it” chorus. Apparently, they believed that most of our problems, here and abroad, either started with George W. Bush, or at least would not transcend him.

At first, it was an easy enough habit to fall into. Things were not in great shape in January 2009 when Obama took over. More important, Obama started out with a nearly 70 percent approval rating. By contrast, Bush, like the punching bag Harry Truman, left office with an approval rating in the low 30s.

Obama’s serial fixation on his predecessor made little sense when he first took office — and it has now become a disastrous misreading of political realities.

Recent polls reflect that Bush and Obama are now just about even in popularity. Obama’s supporters in the House have suffered the worst shellacking since 1938. The president got out of Washington on a foreign tour immediately after the election — only to be cold-shouldered by fair-weather foreign leaders who sensed weakness. Bush, meanwhile, is basking in endless media exposure as he expounds on his best-selling memoir — appearing above the partisan fray, past and present.

Voters two years ago elected Obama for a variety of reasons — from unhappiness with Bush and Iraq to the landmark novelty of seeing our first black president. The financial meltdown of September 2008 ended for good John McCain’s small lead in the polls. That panic also reminded voters of their unease with the Bush deficits and his expansion of government.

Unfortunately, Obama misread all that, and ended up trumping many of the things that Bush did to alienate voters...

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