Victor Davis Hanson

It is only four months into 2008, but the presidential campaign -- already too long and nasty -- is still a long way from over. And the casualties are mounting.

First, George Bush’s popularity remains dismal -- even though some of the complaints about his first term have gone by the wayside. The French and German governments are now staunchly pro-American. Violence in Iraq is still way down from a year ago. America has been free from a terrorist attack since 9/11.

No matter. Nothing has seemed to help the president. His approval rating stays at, or sinks below, 30 percent.

Why? The current gloomy economic news and the continuing human and financial costs of Afghanistan and Iraq explain a lot. But another reason is this present election cycle. For the first time in nearly six decades, no incumbent president or vice president is daily hammering back in defense of the recent four years.

We expect Democratic opponents Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to trash an incumbent Republican president. But Republican nominee John McCain seldom endorses anything about the two Bush terms.

Again, the last time America witnessed anything similar was when Harry Truman left office with a 22 percent approval rating -- under furious attack by Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower and yet shunned by his own party's nominee, the maverick Adlai Stevenson, who had not been part of the Truman administration.

If the current president hasn't been helped by the present campaign, look what's it's done to his predecessor. The Clinton legacy is wrecked. Left-wing bloggers, liberal columnists and some Democratic politicians now despise Bill and Hillary Clinton -- even more than did "the vast right-wing conspiracy" of the 1990s.

A furious Hillary keeps charging the media with the same sort of bias that the Republicans used to routinely claim always favored her husband. Apparently the left has become infatuated with Barack Obama and does not want another eight years of the once-iconic Clintons -- especially after their use of the race card, the hardball politics and Hillary's chronic exaggeration and misstatements.

Globetrotting Bill Clinton spent seven years crafting a legacy as a post-partisan senior statesman. Now he's thrown that away by devolving into a political henchman assigned to take down the Democratic Party's first serious African-American candidate.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.