Defiant To The End
You may now have known it because the public erased him from the national memory at 12:01pm yesterday, but George W. Bush held a rally in Midland, Texas when he got home yesterday, and he continued to feel the need to defend himself to a public that is trying really hard to forget him.
“I always felt it was important to tackle the tough issues today and not try to pass them on to future presidents, and future generations,” Mr. Bush said. “I never took an opinion poll to tell me what to think. And I’m coming home with my head held high and a sense of accomplishment.”
Much of his speech was a defense of his presidency and his decisions, particularly after 9/11 when, he said, “we liberated 50 million people from the clutches of terrorism.”
Perhaps his dominant theme was that he believed he did the right thing, even if it wasn’t popular and he tried to make the case that popularity didn’t matter. He leaves office with the lowest poll ratings of any president in modern times.
“There were some good days and there were some tough days but every day was an honor to be your president,” he said. “I gave it my all. Listen. Sometimes what I did wasn’t popular, but that’s okay, I always did what I thought was right.” [...]
He added: “History will be the judge of my decisions, but when I walked out of the Oval Office this morning, I left with the same values that I took to Washington eight years ago. And when I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I’m not going to regret what I see — except maybe some gray hair.”
I don't think this shows a lack of self-awareness, just a coping mechanism. How else would Bush be able to live with himself if he didn't think this? A White House suicide would be messy, so we have to grow Presidents with thick skin. Fortunately, we now have a leader without as much of a need for one. At least not yet.
This idea that Bush or his team never took an opinion poll on what to think, or rather this mythology, should be put to bed, however. I can just pull a story at random to rebut that.
"He will move back up in the polls," says Mr. Rove, who interrupts my reference to Mr. Bush's 30% approval rating by saying it's heading close to "40%," and "higher than Congress."
All Presidents court popularity because they couldn't get anything done without it. No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D and comprehensive immigration reform were poll-driven policies. The White House called the environment-gutting bills "Healthy Forests" and "Clear Skies" so they were popular. Nothing happened in the final two years because Bush was deeply unpopular. And it not because he didn't try. That's a pathetic statement.