Saturday, January 15, 2005

There's no doubt that he's reviled, but is he loved?

A question:

There is no doubt that the liberals and the left revile George W. Bush, but among his supporters on the right, is he loved or is just merely tolerated?

For instance, Bill Clinton was absolutely despised by conservatives, and while there is a certain nostalgia on the left for the presidency of Clinton when juxtaposed with the current administration, it's hard to say if he was truly "loved" by Democrats. In time of crisis, even a Democrat like myself would be hard-pressed to say, "I wish we had Bill Clinton's leadership on this."

There is a cult of personality with Clinton and he may be one of the most skillful politicians in history, but as a President, he was merely competent in my opinion (while, of course, I consider the current president incompetent, even by conservative standards)

I think time alone allows presidents to be loved by all, independent of ideology - Lincoln was more divisive than any other president while in office, but today he is universally loved. World War II secured President Roosevelt a special place of honor among all Americans, even those that hate the "New Deal." The assassination of Kennedy deifies him, and most recently, Ronald Reagan has emerged as potential figure in this tradition.

Will George W. Bush achieve this level of acclaim? Will his opponents begrudingly concede a benefit to this country? It's too early to tell; however, as a marker for guidance, the defining moment of the Bush presidency is lacking in sounds and images of the person - 9/11.

On Sept. 11, 2001 - the President is conspicuously absent. The heroic faces of the day are NYC firemen and the Mayor of New York, Rudy Guiliani. There is no "day of infamy", there is no "touch the face of God" in a time of national tragedy, there is no sustaining image like Dealey Plaza - the most common media images that link George W. Bush to the events of Sept. 11 are in a Florida classroom. (This isn't a value judgment like Michael Moore made - this is just a statement of fact about the first image of the President on 9/11)

Without an anchor for liberals to latch onto, even in the face of ideological conflict, in the short term, it is unlikely that George W Bush can achieve universal appeal, based on the events of the first term. Of course, long term policies could help/harm the legacy in a generation, but in an age of media, the President has so far left little that inspires or moves people.

[Sidenote: Policywise, I'm not a big fan of Ronald Reagan, but there are some media bites of his that just give me chills - Challenger, the Mondale debate on age, "Are you better off than you were 4 years ago", and the farewell letter before the Alzheimer's set in. Wow.]

To return to the question: in the present, is the President loved on the right? Some would argue that John McCain is the most popular public figure in America - what about the President? Is he loved, or just merely tolerated?

If you are a conservative, or a Bush supporter, please comment on this. I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

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