Sometimes it’s good to remember how fleeting popularity is. President Bush’s popularity is the lowest of any President since Richard Nixon was forced from office by scandal. Yet for a few months following September 11, 2001, he was golden. The man hasn’t changed, but our perception of him has. Once he rose to the occasion, calmed our fears, took charge, and made us feel that everything was going to be all right. We would find the terrorists and make them pay. We would not be cowed by Muslim fanatics. We would fight. We would win.
Now Bush is the man who got us into a needless war. He’s the man who allowed the economy to collapse. He’s the man who has not found the terrorists and has not made them pay.
Abraham Lincoln once observed that the real test of character is not adversity but power. For power exposes your insecurities. President Bush was not secure enough to welcome difference of opinion among his advisers. He has surrounded himself with those who tell him what he wants to hear and pushed away those who would tell him the truth. He has leaned too heavily on his Vice President in areas where he lacked experience. These failings, which seem too small to earn him such scorn and derision as the media and much of the public have heaped upon him, were too great for him to overcome. When he leaves office, he will likely leave as one of the country’s all-time least popular Presidents. But time will probably be kind to him again.
Meanwhile here is a picture of him from two years ago on Halloween. He was visiting Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. The little girl getting a presidential hug may have a very different perception of Bush than his current popularity would suggest.