You may count me as among those Americans who think better of former President George W. Bush than I did when he left office in January 2009.
A CNN poll shows that more than 60 percent of Americans currently think favorably of President Bush. CNN reports that “W” has turned his unfavorable ratings “upside down.” Bush’s favorable rating is nearly double where it was when he exited the White House.
I want to stipulate a couple of things here.
I didn’t vote for Bush when he ran twice for Texas governor. Nor did I vote for him when he ran for election and re-election as president.
However, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him, interviewing him at length and getting to know the man. Thus, I have a certain personal fondness for President Bush.
I met him the first time in the spring of 1995 not long after he took office as Texas governor; I don’t count an elevator encounter I had with him in New Orleans at the 1988 Republican National Presidential Convention.
I found the future president in 1995 to be fully engaged in Texas politics and government, even though he was new to the political game when he upset incumbent Gov. Ann Richards in 1994. He was well-informed, articulate, friendly and quite engaging.
We met in his office at the Texas Capitol Building. The interview was supposed to last for 30 minutes; we ended up chatting for an hour and a half. We would meet again in 1998 as he ran for re-election.
I look back now at his presidency with a certain wistfulness, given the fact that the nation elected a certifiably unfit individual to the office in 2016.
The juxtaposition of George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump suggests to me that it would be inevitable that “W”s standing would improve as dramatically as it has done in the past year.
President Bush made plenty of mistakes. The Iraq War was unnecessary, although the president’s leadership in the wake of the 9/11 attacks filled me with pride in the moment. I only wish the president would have kept his eye on the enemy he identified clearly and decisively while we sorted though our national grief.
Compared to the style of leadership we’re getting today? The 43rd president stands tall.