Clinton is one of those politicians who wanted to be president since he was a little boy. As a student and a candidate, he never seemed to prepare much but showed time and again that he could improvise and get himself out of trouble of his own making.
His brilliant political instincts were matched by an almost compulsive interest in the details of public policy. His major misfire came when he left the drafting of his health care program to others.
George W. Bush does not seem to have always wanted to be president. I think he believed that God had put it in his way, and he did his best to prepare himself for it.
Clinton was chronically late, while Bush characteristically showed up ahead of time. Clinton would keep rewriting his State of the Union speeches as he rode to the Capitol. Bush liked to have his big speeches prepared days in advance.
Clinton's indiscipline caused him problems, but he managed to surmount them. Bush's tendency to regard decisions as settled could cause problems, too. In retrospect, he should have revisited military strategy in Iraq sooner than in late 2006 and early 2007, when he put in place the successful surge.
Iraq and the financial crisis obscured Bush's successful initiatives -- the tax cuts, the bipartisan education accountability law, the Medicare prescription drug program, the PEPFAR program to curb AIDS in Africa.
They were the product of deliberate effort and careful preparation -- and some shrewd political calculation.
The Post/ABC poll suggests that Americans have been developing a more well-rounded assessment of Bush's stewardship, even as he has remained mostly silent in public.
Some presidents' reputations rise as they move into history. Harry Truman, reviled when he left office, was recognized later for getting the big decisions right despite some obvious mistakes.
The same thing seems to be happening, more quickly, with George W. Bush.
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