Bush vs. Nixon: The Ultimate Show–er, Letdown

17Jan09

Gallup has a poll that says–well, I’ll let them do the summarizing:

A mere 17% of Americans believe George W. Bush will go down in history as an outstanding or above-average president — out of sync with Bush’s own confidence that his presidency will be appreciated with time. Another 23% of Americans predict he will be remembered as “average” while 59% say “below average” or “poor.”

How does that compare to Nixon?

Although Bush is about tied with Nixon in perceptions that history will remember him as an outstanding or above-average president, he fares worse than Nixon on the basis of his “below average” and “poor” ratings: 59% for Bush vs. 48% for Nixon. As a result, Bush’s net positive score (total percent outstanding or above average minus total percent below average or poor) is worse than Nixon’s: -42 for Bush versus -33 for Nixon.

What this poll doesn’t look at is a more nuanced perception; in essence, one that goes beyond very basic measures. If the clock could be turned back and Gallup could re-evaluate every president a few years following their respective times of departure, it would be worth asking Americans if, even if they disapprove of their leaders’ performances, whether or not they feel sorry for them after some time of reflection.

I only say this because just about every portrayal of Nixon on the silver screen, including — in my opinion — that in current hit Frost vs. Nixon, is sympathetic towards the former president. You just get the idea everybody feels sorry for his existence.

There are currently millions (billions?) of people who are flat-out angry at Bush Jr., but one assumes that the same climate existed back when Nixon resigned and was officially pardoned, before he fell into relative obscurity. After pausing to think, people tended to see Nixon as lonely, tired, and melancholy.

Down the road, when people read in recent-history books or reflective biographies that Bush was the president that he was, will they stop hating his policies so virulently and come to feel sorry for his apparent disconnection with the English language and his soured relationship with a large, vocal cohort of the American people?

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2 Responses to “Bush vs. Nixon: The Ultimate Show–er, Letdown”

  1. If not for two minor grammatical instruments (a hyphen and a comma), this post would be even more disturbing.

    “Bush vs. Nixon: The Ultimate Shower Letdown”

    I don’t think I’ll ever look at either of those two former presidents the same way again.

  2. 2 David McClelland

    Thanks to you, Peter, I think I can safely say that American history is now ruined for me forever.


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