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Bush and Truman

With yet another downturn in Bush's poll numbers, we're hearing again how history will inevitably view this president less harshly in the fullness of time. The most commonly offered proof of this truism is the legacy of Harry S. Truman. By the time he left office, Truman's approval ratings were historically and dismally low. Already viewed by many as the product of corrupt Kansas City machine politics, he had gotten the US bogged down in Korea, seemed willfully obtuse on the issue of Communist infiltration in the US government, and had been in charge when various scandals rocked his administration. It took nearly 30 years (and the even more dismal presidency of Richard Nixon) for Truman's reputation to rebound.

Now comes George W. Bush.

But here's the thing: who says all presidents are inevitably judged "more fairly" with the passage of time? What, after all, is our view of Ulysses S. Grant? Or Warren G. Harding? Have the opinions of historians changed? Or, for that matter, our opinion of Franklin Roosevelt and/or Ronald Reagan?

The invocation of Truman's name when discussing George W. Bush is, well, an insult to Truman's reputation. The two men could not be more different in background, temperament, and approach. Can you say "The buck stops here?" Truman could and did; Bush, not so much.

It's not fair to say that Truman would have detested Bush, but Truman did detest Nixon and that gives me a pretty good idea of how he would have viewed the current president.

So, Bush loyalists: leave Truman out of it, OK? You're on your own.

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