Monday, November 10, 2008

Most unpopular ever; or, why Bush will not be another Truman

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A new CNN poll finds that Bush is "the most unpopular president since approval ratings were first sought more than six decades ago," with disapproval ratings above 70 this year.

Which makes him more unpopular than Nixon... and Truman.

Yes, yes, I know, look what happened to Truman: Vindicated by history, now considered to be one of the best of the last century, if not one of the best ever, celebrated by Democrats and Republicans alike.

All I can say is, W. is no S.

Truman was the great exception, assuming the presidency at a difficult time, upon FDR's death, and ending up in Korea. Bush's admirers, ever optimistic, if delusionally so, point to him precisely because he was an exception -- because, of course, they hope Bush will be one, too, deeply unpopular at the end of his presidency but ultimately resurrected.

One has one's doubts. Truman may or may not deserve his vindication -- I would argue that he deserves some of it but that the pendulum has swung too far in his favour -- but he was nonetheless an admirable man who presided over the early years of post-war America, laying the groundwork for so much of what was to come both in terms of foreign and domestic policy, much of it positive.

As for Bush, he has presided over the implementation of a mostly right-wing agenda, cultivating the culture of fear and division and weakening America both at home and abroad. Some historians may eventually give him some of the benefit of whatever doubt remains, but an exception like Truman he will never be.

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