It’s hard to remember the time when George W. Bush winked and swaggered his way into the White House, while rival Al Gore’s team fretted that the vice president didn’t show enough folksy warmth or wear the right earth tones to win the day. My, how times have changed.
Now, the 43rd president is setting records for low public approval ratings as he prepares to leave office, the two wars he presided over present new tragedies and challenges by the day, and Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi reporter who beamed shoes at Bush’s head, is being championed as a hero in the very part of the world that Team Bush purportedly sought to liberate. (However, al-Zaidi’s memorable display of free expression landed him in jail.)
Oh, and then we have Al Gore 2.0, who ended up using global warming instead of earthy hues to reinvent himself. We’d say that nobody would want to be in Bush’s shoes, but that would constitute yet another bad shoe pun, and there are plenty of those to go around as it is.
Iraqis aren’t the only ones throwing shoes: Americans remain broadly critical of U.S. involvement in Iraq, a view unaltered by security gains. And Afghanistan presents its own challenges, with broad public worries about progress and prospects alike.
On Iraq, George W. Bush’s surprise trip Sunday took him to the root of his own unpopularity: Sixty-four percent of Americans in this new ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war was not worth fighting, steady for two years. And in the dwindling days of his presidency, 68 percent disapprove of Bush’s job performance overall.
The two are inextricably linked.
Bush and the war have been unpopular for four years running, with an almost perfect correlation between the two views. While the economy’s taken center stage, it’s the Iraq war that’s most damaged Bush over the long term.
The success of the “surge” of U.S. forces in improving security is almost an ironic twist.
AP photo / Charles Dharapa