As the (second) Bush era draws to a close, what do Americans feel as GWB packs up his things and gets ready to head back to Texas? According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, 75 percent of Americans can’t wait to see him go. Some 23 percent (which most assuredly includes Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity) are going to miss him. It’s worth taking an extended look at this story:
A new national poll suggests that three out of four Americans feel President Bush’s departure from office is coming not a moment too soon.
Seventy-five percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Friday said they’re glad Bush is going; 23 percent indicated they’ll miss him.
“Earlier this year, Bush scored some of the lowest presidential approval ratings we’ve seen in half a century, so it’s understandable that the public is eager for a new president to step in,” said Keating Holland, CNN polling director.
CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider added, “As President Bush prepares to leave office, the American public has a parting thought: Good riddance. At least that’s the way three-quarters feel.”
But is this a bum rap? Didn’t former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton leave office with the bulk of Americans counting off the days, hours and seconds when they’d finally be totally bye-bye? NO:
The portion who say they won’t miss Bush is 24 percentage points higher than the 51 percent who said they wouldn’t miss President Bill Clinton when he left office in January 2001. Forty-five percent of those questioned at that time said they would miss Clinton.
The poll indicates that Bush compares poorly with his presidential predecessors, with 28 percent saying that he’s the worst ever. Forty percent rate Bush’s presidency as poor, and 31 percent say he’s been a good president.
Fair enough…But when Bush is out of the White House, won’t Americans be yearning for him to rise from the political ashes like former President Jimmy Carter and be in the media spotlight again?
And, again the answer is NO:
Only a third of those polled said they want Bush to remain active in public life after he leaves the White House. That 33 percent figure is 22 points lower than those in 2001 who wanted Bill Clinton to retain a public role.
“It’s been like a failed marriage,” Schneider said.
The poll found that most Americans feel Bush was not cracked up to what he suggested his was, his partisans insisted he was and what some of them felt he had to be. In taking office in 2001 and 2004 he had decent numbers. But now?
*The poll finds that most Americans now feel he proved to be a divider, not a uniter. “When running for the White House in the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush promised to be a uniter and not a divider. But 82 percent of poll respondents felt that Bush did not unite the country, compared with 17 percent who said he did.
*He no longer inspires confidence. In 2001 and 2004 some 60 percent felt he inspired confidence and that number is now down to 20.
*He has a record 27 percent low approval rating with 72 percent disapproving of the way he does his job:
“President Bush’s job approval rating has been at or below freezing since the beginning of the year,” Schneider said. “The current 27 percent approval rating is one of the lowest ratings for any president, ever.”
We don’t usually “vet” such polls so extensively here, but it is instructive for several reasons:
1. The GOP will have to move beyond the Bush era and re-stamp its brand name. Jeb Bush in 2012 would not be a wise party career move.
2. Barack Obama comes to office with record high transition approval ratings and this poll clearly showing Americans want to put an era behind them marked by unwise or poorly executed policies and political polarization. He has a substantial opportunity — coming into office with so many Americans ready to give him the benefit of the doubt and wanting to forget about the Bush era, which Schneider has noted on CNN started its major downturn after the administration’s Hurricane Katrina fiasco.
3. The high approval ratings for Obama and low ones for Bush in essence mean that there is a consensus now in the United States. Bush won in 2001 in a hotly contested and controversial election. The 911 carnage created a consensus, which he and Karl Rove squandered at the altar of partisan politics. Will Obama build on the consensus he now has, try to maintain it or, like Bush, overstep and morph into yet one more politician whose key interest seems to be advancing a D or an R rather than uniting the country and aggregating interests?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.