Feature

Why George W. Bush is 'unloved'

How 9/11 and the Iraq war changed the way Americans saw the Bush presidency

As George W. Bush walks out of the White House, said William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal, “he carries with him the near-universal opprobrium” of the Washington elite. But he is in disfavor for his greatest success—not his failures. “Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable.”

No, the “unwarranted and hugely expensive war” was a mistake, said The Denver Post in an editorial. But Iraq isn’t the reason Bush is leaving office as one of the least popular presidents in history, nor is his “deplorable” erosion of civil liberties. Bush earned his dismal ratings by squandering the world’s goodwill after 9/11, and by being so “relentlessly partisan” after promising to work with Democrats.

Still, it’s a good thing that Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, said Christopher Hitchens in Slate. “It is the events of Sept. 11, 2001, that explain the transformation of George Bush from a rather lazy small-government conservative into an interventionist, in almost every sense, politician.” Events would have changed the Democrats, too, and “we can be pretty sure that wiretapping and water-boarding would have become household words“ under them, too.

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