Of the myriad depressing developments in the age of Donald Trump, one of the more quietly corrosive is the ongoing rehabilitation of some of our most noxious public figures. Not only has the liberal establishment embraced neoconservatives like Ana Navarro and Bill Kristol, but Bush speechwriter David Frum has emerged as one of the foremost voices of the #Resistance. Even W himself is being heralded as an elder statesman, as though rebuking Trump without saying his name and offering a bit of pap about the country needing positive role models constitutes an act of moral courage.
It's not just #NeverTrump Republicans who have warmed to the 43rd president, if such a group even exists outside of elite media circles. According to new polling data from the Economist, 51 percent of Democrats now approve of George W. Bush, while just 42 percent disapprove. (At the end of his second term, that first figure stood at 6 percent, per Gallup.)
Keep in mind that the polling question was not "Do you have a favorable opinion of George W. Bush as he compares to Donald Trump?" but "Do you have a favorable opinion of George W. Bush?"
Even if respondents had been presented with the first query, the answer should still be a resounding "no," with the caveat that Trump's presidency is still in its infancy. The calamities of the Bush administration need not be recounted here, but suffice it to say we are still sifting through the wreckage eight years later, from civil war in Iraq to nuclear brinksmanship with North Korea to devastating income inequality at home. As Jeet Heer of the New Republic writes, we can draw a straight line from one Republican office to the next.
That the opposition party now looks fondly on Bush is a testament to just how unmoored we've become.