America's Least Wanted
Another Bush earns his place on a Rushmore for the rejected.
Friday, Nov. 18, 2005
Sinker:Back in August, when George W. Bush crossed the Mendoza Line with a disapproval rating in the Gallup Poll of 56 percent, he still had four men left to pass for the title of most unpopular president in modern history: Jimmy Carter (59 percent), George H. W. Bush (60 percent) Richard Nixon (66 percent), and Harry Truman (67 percent). I predicted that the way things were going, he could speed past Carter and Bush 41 "within the next month."
I was wrong—it took the president two months. This week's Gallup puts his disapproval at 60 percent, which means father and son share third place on the all-time list. Bush 43 always said he learned an important political lesson from Bush 41, and now we know what it was: Don't hit bottom too early. If you're going to be the third-most unpopular president, do it in your second term, so you have some time to stop and smell the Rose Garden.
It's an awesome achievement for one family to produce two of the four most unpopular presidents in modern times. If there were a Mount Rushmore for rejection, the Bushes would have half the place to themselves.
With the holidays coming, you can bet there will be a lot of good-natured joshing in the highly competitive Bush household about which man deserves full bragging rights. Bush the father, whose favorite sport was speed golf, can boast of his prowess in speed failure. Truman needed seven years to hit bottom, Nixon six, and Bush the son five. The elder Bush tanked in three and a half.
On the other hand, Bush the son may not have to wait long before he has the crown to himself. His unpopularity has been rising two points a month all year, which gives him an outside shot of catching Nixon by January.
The Bush White House is certainly doing everything in its power to fail on all fronts. Soaring heating oil prices, Republican chaos in Congress, and more trouble from the special prosecutor will help. But with Iraqi elections and the State of the Union coming up, it could take Bush as much as six months to pass Nixon and Truman. The president needs to remember the patience that got him this far: Rome wasn't lost in a day.
Comeback Kid: Here's one Gallup finding that won't come up over Thanksgiving dinner at the first family's: Americans now say by a 48-to-36 percent margin that they trusted Bill Clinton more than they trust George Bush.
Even Mickey Kaus is caught up in the wave of Clinton nostalgia. While the rest of the blogosphere is off chasing Bush, Cheney, and Woodward conspiracies, Mickey is reviving that once-common trope, the Clinton conspiracy.
Mickey's theory is that when President Clinton lambasted the Bush administration this week for making a mess of the war in Iraq, he was trying to win liberal support for Sen. Clinton, who voted to authorize it. Mickey attempts to compare this to our mutual obsession, welfare reform, which President Clinton supported but some on the left hoped First Lady Clinton would oppose.
Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at email@example.com. Read his disclosure here.
Photograph of Barack Obama by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.