Second look at compassionate conservatism?
Dubya’s favorable rating still lags far behind the numbers for his four predecessors, all of whom top 60 percent. (Reagan tops 70 percent.) How’s he doing it? With a double-digit bump among all groups — even Democrats, 24 percent of whom now view him favorably versus just 14 percent who did three years ago. Interestingly, while still sky-high at 84 percent, Republican support has actually dropped three points since 2010. You can take that as good news or bad news if you’re a libertarian — good news because it might represent a small but growing backlash to big-spending neoconservatism, bad news because Dubya’s still well above 80 percent among the party base you’re trying to convince to vote for Rand Paul.
When I first glanced at the graph, I figured there was an obvious explanation: Democrats, chastened by the NSA revelations this week and pressured by partisanship into supporting O, have come to realize that Bush wasn’t the singular evil on civil liberties they thought he was. A fine theory, but incorrect. Gallup conducted its poll from June 1 to 4; the first big revelation about NSA data-mining of domestic calls on Verizon didn’t pop until June 5. It may be that Bush’s numbers would move even higher if you re-polled this again today, precisely for the reason I just gave, but the NSA stuff isn’t priced into today’s data. As it is, I think two things are happening. One: Dubya’s remained gracious and low-key as an ex-president, and his occasional recent cameos in the public eye — talking about painting, opening the Bush library with praise from Obama — have taken a little of the hard partisan edge off of the way people see him. Two: After a solid month of Scandalmania and a big speech from President Dronestrike about his body count in Pakistan and Yemen, there’s less of a contrast between Hopenchange and the administration that preceded it. Those who disliked Bush but never quite hated him like the left did might conclude for various reasons that he’s less to blame for some of his failings than they thought — maybe because they’ve concluded that Obama isn’t to blame for the scandals currently besieging him or maybe because they’ve been nudged by O towards a more Bushian view of subjects like foreign intervention. When the guy you’re stuck with is doing badly, it’s only natural to feel a little nostalgic for what came before. Even for a guy whose approval rating sunk to the low 30s.