Victor Davis Hanson: Bush Reconsidered





NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.

George W. Bush left office in January 2009 with one of the lowest job-approval ratings for a president (34 percent) since Gallup started compiling them — as compared to Harry Truman’s low of 32 percent, Richard Nixon’s of 24 percent, and Jimmy Carter’s of 34 percent — and to the general derision of the media.

At times the venom accorded Bush in popular culture reached absurd — and even sick — levels. Alfred A. Knopf, for example, infamously published Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint, a pathetic riff on shooting Bush. Gabriel Range’s unhinged 2006 "docudrama," The Death of a President, focused on an imagined assassination of President Bush (imagine the outcry should any filmmaker today update that topos). A sick Charlie Brooker op-ed in the Guardian called for another John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald to kill Bush. Jonathan Chait of The New Republic more or less permanently ruined his reputation by writing an adolescent rant on "the case for Bush hatred," one that began creepily with "I hate President George W. Bush." Try substituting another president’s name for Bush’s and see what the reaction of The New Republic would be.

All that hysteria once led to Charles Krauthammer’s identification of "Bush Derangement Syndrome" — a pathology in which the unbalanced seemed to channel all their anxieties, frustrations, and paranoias onto George W. Bush. And yet, following 9/11, Bush had calmly led the nation and enjoyed one of the highest positive appraisals of any president since the advent of modern polling, when for months he registered a 90 percent approval rating; indeed, he averaged a 62 percent approval rating over his first four years.

Yet, as with all presidents, with time and a successor come perspective...



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