Hang in There, Mr. President

“Hang in there, Mr. President” is a term applicable not only to Barack Obama, but to Bill Clinton the two Bushes, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon…etc.

If they wait long enough, Americans will cut them some slack.

“He’s ruining this country” a republican said about him. About whom? Obama? No, Washington. George Washington, that is. The father of our country. The only president so popular that no one even ran against him (note: some people did run for president during the two elections Washington won, but they were running for second place. Back then, there were no political tickets – whoever got the second-most votes for president became vice president).

So who said Washington was ruining the country? Thomas Jefferson, Washington’s fellow Founding Father, and the original small-government republican, who was a Democratic-Republican, to be exact, a party not quite like our modern-day Democrats or Republicans.

“How can you defend him? He is the worst president ever!  He tricked us into supporting a senseless war that has claimed the lives of thousands of our troops. He is a war criminal who should be impeached and convicted.  He failed at every career before becoming president, and now those failures continue. History will confirm what a terrible president he is.”  Surely those words were spoken about George W. Bush, right? Nope. About Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln?!?!  Really???  Yes – he was, for awhile, America’s most-hated president ever. The South, of course, despised him, but so did the North, particularly during the first couple of years of the Civil War, when the North was losing so badly that it made the post-Hussein Iraqi insurgency look like a mischievous misadventure.

And speaking of worst presidents “ever,” oh how some people just love using that term to describe Obama. As they did about Bush, and plenty of others before him.

But take heart, Mr. President, whoever you are, because Americans usually need just a few years before they forgive and forget – well, more like forget, or never knew about it in the first place.

A recent Gallup Poll comparing the approval ratings of the five living presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bush the father, Clinton Bush the son, and Obama, shows that all four former presidents have a positive approval rating. Clinton is the highest, with 64%, the elder Bush follows with 63%, and the younger Bush so vilified during his presidency, has jumped back unto positive numbers, at 53%. Congratulations, President Bush, you hung in there, were never bitter, and Americans (well, a majority of them) forgot what they were mad about in the first place.

Even Jimmy Carter, remembered for failing to resolve the Iran Hostage Crisis, for the double-digit “Misery Index” (the inflation-unemployment double whammy), and being the nation’s Bearer-of-Malaise-in-Chief, now is back in the positive column, with 52% approval ratings.

Only poor Barack Obama is negative. At 47% approval a majority of Americans are not happy with him.
To be fair, 16% have “no opinion” about Carter at all. One wonders if there was a “comments” section how many would write in: “Jimmy who?” Those “no opinion” numbers grow smaller as we veer toward the present: 6% have no opinion of the elder Bush – that’s still on the high side. But only 2% have no opinion of Clinton or Bush Jr., and just 1% have no opinion of Obama. Whew! At least we can safely say that almost all Americans know who those three are!

Partisanship does rear its ugly head to factor in this equation, of course. The most extreme example is Obama: 90% of Democrats approve of him, but only 7% Republicans. Gee, ya’ think there’s some bias there on both sides?

In fact, the only one of the five who seems to do a good job across the board is George H.W. Bush: 89% of Republicans, 62% of Independents, and 44% of Democrats are happy with the job he did. Well done, sir!  Of course, they didn’t seem to think so at the time as they sent him packing in 1992, when he lost his reelection bid to Clinton.

Fret not, President Obama, soon enough, you’ll be in positive territory again. After all, there was a time when Americans could spend hours telling you why Franklin Pierce was “the worst president ever.” Now, they couldn’t even tell you if “Franklin Pierce” is a poet, a running back, or an investment firm.



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