Former President George W. Bush left office with the lowest approval ratings since Richard Nixon. In reaction, for nearly two years President Barack Obama won easy applause by prefacing almost every speech on his economic policies with a "Bush did it" put-down.
But suddenly Bush seems OK. Last week, the president did the unthinkable: He praised Bush for his past efforts to reach out to Muslims. Vice President Joe Biden went further and blurted out, "Mr. Bush deserves a lot of credit." Biden topped that off with, "Mr. President, thank you."
Even liberal pundits have now called on Bush to help Obama diffuse rising tensions over the so-called Ground Zero mosque and Arizona's illegal immigration law.
What's going on?
For one thing, recent polls show an astounding rebound in the former president's favorability -- to the extent that in the bellwether state of Ohio, voters would rather still have Bush as president than Obama by a 50-42 margin. Nationwide, Obama's approval ratings continue to sink to near 40 percent -- a nadir that took years for Bush to reach. It has become better politics to praise rather than to bury Bush.
Iraq seems on the road to success, with a growing economy and a stabilizing government. Don't take my word on that; ask Vice President Biden. He recently claimed that the way Iraq is going, it could become one of the Obama administration's "greatest achievements." Obama himself seconded that when the former war critic called the American effort in Iraq "a remarkable chapter" in the history of the two countries.
Then there are the growing comparisons with Bush's supposed past transgressions. Compared to Obama, they're starting to look like traffic tickets now. Take the economy and the war on terror. Americans were angry at the Bush-era deficits. But they look small after Obama trumped them in less than two years.
For six years of the Bush administration, Americans enjoyed a strong economy. So far, there hasn't been a similar month under Obama. Bush had a one-time Wall Street meltdown, but Obama's permanent big-government medicine for it seems far worse than the original disease.
If Hurricane Katrina showed government ineptness, so did the recent BP oil spill. Maybe such problems in the Gulf were neither Bush nor Obama's fault alone, but are better attributed to the inept federal bureaucracy itself -- or to freak weather and human laxity.