When Bush left office, his approval rating was down in the 20s to low 30s. Now it's at 47%, which is what Obama's is. That is amazing, and not sufficiently appreciated. Yes, we are a 50-50 nation, but Mr. Bush left office in foreign-policy and economic failure, even cataclysm. Yet he is essentially equal in the polls to the supposedly popular president. Which suggests Republicans in general have some latent, unseen potential of which they're unaware. Right now they're busy being depressed. Maybe they should be thinking, "If Bush could come back . . ." Actually, forget I said that. Every time Republican political professionals start to think that way, with optimism, they get crude and dumb and think if they press certain levers the mice will run in certain directions.Last week, Walter Russell Mead wrote:
It makes former Bush aide Peter Wehner really unhappy that anyone would criticize President W. Bush. In our latest essay, we noted that the Bush presidency remains widely unpopular and that national Bush fatigue remains a serious political problem for the Republican Party. We said that “more went right under Bush than most of his critics understood,” but counseled Republicans to spend less energy fighting what is pretty much a settled public judgment about the Bush administration and focus their attention on building for the future. We suggested that the GOP needs to talk about “lessons learned” and give the very large majority of Americans who consider the Bush administration a failure more reason to think that another Republican in the White House would mean something different.
Mr. Wehner’s response, entitled “Walter Russell Mead’s Shallow and Misleading Attack on the Bush Legacy,” is an impressive attempt to prove that everything popularly regarded as a Bush failure was in reality a great success.The latter exchange may be of interest to writers, but is politically beside the point. As we explain in After Hope and Change, however, GOP politicians have been following Noonan's advice all along. They seldom even mention his name. Romney had scant ties to the administration, and Ryan coauthored a book that repeatedly said that the party had lost its way during the Bush years.