The Cowboy Republicans Can’t Quit
us with two wars and an economic crisis, but Republicans still hold George W.
Bush in high esteem.
take for granted that, for all their ideological rigidity, Republicans have
made a break with the recent past. Say what you will about the Tea Party
zealotry of the last four years, it has been a break with the lazy incompetence
of the George W. Bush years.
is this true? Are Republicans as down on the Bush presidency as the rest of the
world, or is this a tactical shift, a (so-far-successful) attempt to rebrand
the party in the age of Obama? Will the next Republican absorb the lessons of
the Bush administration, or should we expect a repeat performance?
don’t have an answer. But if there’s a clue, it lies in the ongoing esteem
of Republicans for their former leader. To wit, during a talk with the Economic
Club of Chicago, Chris Christie—the embattled New Jersey governor—offered
unqualified praise for the administration of George W. Bush:
since scandal enveloped him, Mr. Christie mocked President Obama for entering
office without “a respect for the other party,” complained that George W. Bush
was “grossly underappreciated” in the White House and seemed to make a novel
case for his own, now-blemished candidacy for president in 2016.
the idea that Obama entered office without respect for Republicans is
ludicrous—he kept one in his cabinet and bent over backwards to win GOP support
for his stimulus package—but we’re not here for Christie’s mendacity. What’s interesting
about this is his clear admiration for Bush. And while it’s hard to know how
much of this is self-interest—this group includes GOP donors, after all—it is
true that Bush retains his standing with Republican voters.
a poll released last year by
ABC News and the Washington Post, 84 percent of Republicans said they
approved of George W. Bush, compared to 45 percent of independents and just 25
percent of Democrats. This includes self-described conservatives (69 percent
approval), whites (55 percent approval), and voters with incomes of over
$100,000 (55 percent). The poll doesn’t give a detailed look at issue-based
approval, but my sense is that you’d see similar numbers for his handling of
the economy, and his decision to invade Iraq.