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Posted by on Jul 4, 2007 in Politics | 9 comments

Rasmussen Poll: Bush Almost Ties Nixon For Least Popular President

The latest poll from Rasmussen (which no one has ever accused of being a wing of the Democratic Party) indicates President George W. Bush now ranks as one of American history’s most unpopular Presidents — within just one point of tying most-unpopular President and fellow Republican Richard Nixon.

Here’s that part of the poll:

The highest unfavorable rating for any President is earned by Richard Nixon. Sixty percent (60%) of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the only President to resign from office. Thirty-two percent (32%) have a favorable opinion of the man who famously went to China.

Close on Nixon’s heels for most unpopular is the current President, George W. Bush. Fifty-nine percent (59%) have an unfavorable opinion of him. Lyndon Johnson (42%) and Bill Clinton (41%) are the only other Presidents viewed unfavorably by at least 40% of Americans.

And the most popular?

Six American Presidents are viewed favorably by at least 80% of all Americans. Those esteemed six are led by the first President George Washington. The Father of our Country is viewed favorably by 94% of Americans. The sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln, is the second most popular. The man who gave us the Gettysburg Address is viewed favorably by 92% (see Presidential favorable ratings).

The next four are Thomas Jefferson (89%), Teddy Roosevelt (84%), Franklin D. Roosevelt (81%), and John F. Kennedy (80%).

Five other Presidents are viewed favorably by at least 70% of Americans today—John Adams (74%), James Madison (73%), Ronald Reagan (72%), Dwight Eisenhower (72%), and Harry Truman (70%). It’s worth noting that the nation’s first four Presidents—Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison—all continue to earn rave reviews in the twenty-first century.

Bush and his supporters (like most politicians and supporters of politicians who see their poll numbers nosediving south) like to compare him to President Harry Truman, who defied bad poll numbers to leave office and actually live to see historians hail him as a courageous and great President who was misunderstood and unappreciated by the populace and pundits in his time.

But, as we’ve often noted here: that’s not an accurate comparison.

And, now, via Political Wire, we see that in his last piece the late Washington Post journalist David Halberstam, writes in Vanity Fair that the comparison is hogwash:

In the twilight of his presidency, George W. Bush and his inner circle have been feeding the press with historical parallels: he is Harry Truman—unpopular, besieged, yet ultimately to be vindicated—while Iraq under Saddam was Europe held by Hitler. To a serious student of the past, that’s preposterous. Writing just before his untimely death, David Halberstam asserts that Bush’s “history,” like his war, is based on wishful thinking, arrogance, and a total disdain for the facts.

For details, read the entire article.

When you read Halberstam’s article you conclude the various controversies around Bush will continue to swirl — generated as much by his dismissive style and personality as by his policies. The sagging poll numbers will at best become slightly see-saw numbers and controversy and political polarization will likely continue to mark his administration until he leaves office in January 2009.

UPDATE: It might be best to give you two excerpts of this long article (which must be read in its entirety). He goes back and cites specific instances of history where the Truman/Bush analogy is shown to be false. For instance, he notes Truman’s controversial firing of the then-popular General MacArthur:

George W. Bush’s relationship with his military commander was precisely the opposite. He dealt with the ever so malleable General Tommy Franks, a man, Presidential Medal of Freedom or no, who is still having a difficult time explaining to his peers in the military how Iraq happened, and how he agreed to so large a military undertaking with so small a force. It was the president, not the military or the public, who wanted the Iraq war, and Bush used the extra leverage granted him by 9/11 to get it. His people skillfully manipulated the intelligence in order to make the war seem necessary, and they snookered the military on force levels and the American public on the cost of it all. The key operative in all this was clearly Vice President Cheney, supremely arrogant, the most skilled of bureaucrats, seemingly the toughest tough guy of them all, but eventually revealed as a man who knew nothing of the country he wanted to invade and what that invasion might provoke.

Later he writes:

If Bush takes his cues from anyone in the Truman era, it is not Truman but the Republican far right.

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