Don't ‘misunderestimate’ George W. Bush
Few presidents are tested so early in their tenures by such grave crises
Americans typically support newly elected presidents and those who have left office. It’s incumbents they often dislike. George W. Bush is no exception. Although he lost the popular vote in 2000 by a half-million ballots but achieved an Electoral College victory over Vice President Al Gore by the barest of margins (after a Supreme Court decision in Bush’s favor), his initial approval rating was 57 percent, 10 points above the percentage of votes he garnered from the electorate. His support would soar over 90 percent after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as Americans demonstrated their propensity to “rally ’round the flag” and commanders in chief during wartime.
When Bush turned the Oval Office keys over to Barack Obama in 2009, however, with “endless wars” still raging in Afghanistan and Iraq, Osama bin Laden very much alive, and a financial crisis threatening another Great Depression, his approval score had plummeted to 34 percent. He seemed destined to inhabit the failed presidency category of FDR’s successor, whose opponents branded him with the snarky aphorism, “To err is Truman.”