Thoughts on the 2004 election — a response to Trunk

Yesterday, Trunk posted a piece from Roll Call comparing President Bush’s approval numbers to Bill Clinton’s. The thrust was that President Bush is in pretty good shape, since his approval numbers at their lowest tend to be at least as high as Clinton’s were at his peak. Here’s the column.
I must say, I’m not particularly reassured by this analysis. President Clinton hitched his wagon to the economy, which was doing quite well when he faced the voters in 1996. His generally low approval numbers show that the voters would have dumped him in a heart-beat had the economy (or some major foreign policy disaster) given them grounds to do so. But the economy hummed along and there was no apparent foreign policy disaster, at least not while Clinton was still in office.
President Bush’s numbers suggest that voters are less eager to dump him. But no one should doubt that they will do so if things are going badly enough. And Bush has hitched his wagon to Iraq, where things could go quite badly.
BIG TRUNK adds: I think you’re going easy on me. Given your expertise in American history, I thought you would also quarrel with my selection of George Bush the elder as the worst politician to have attained the presidency in the twentieth century. Reader Joshua Sharf of View from a Height has written to suggest that the presidency of William Howard Taft bears many similarities to that of President Bush the elder, and that Taft’s political skills were similarly lacking. Joshua writes that, like Bush, Taft “followed a hugely popular, active President, with his blessing and the assumption that he’d continue his policies. Instead, he bollixed things so badly that a 3rd party candidate split the Republican vote and handed the reins over to the Democrats for an anomalous 2 terms.”


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