Bush delivered his last State of the Union address this week, and no one seemed particularly impressed. Perhaps relieved would be a better word. The speech served as an end-of-an-era marker for a presidency that Americans have come to judge harshly.
Consider this result from an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted right before Bush’s speech. Respondents were asked how Bush compared with recent presidents. Seventy percent deemed him either not as good as most (29 percent) or definitely worse than most (41 percent). A mere 28 percent viewed his presidency positively, characterizing it as one of the very best (5 percent) or better than most (23 percent).
A Pew poll released around the same time queried the public about the balance between failures and accomplishments in the Bush administration’s record. By more than 2:1 (59 percent to 28 percent), the public believed that, in the long run, the Bush administration’s failures will outweigh its accomplishments. In the last reading of the analogous question about the Clinton administration, the verdict was almost exactly reversed: By 60 percent to 27 percent, the public thought that, in the long run, the Clinton administration’s accomplishments will outweigh its failures.
No wonder Bush’s State of the Union address, in which he lauded his administration’s accomplishments, landed with a thud. What the public really wants from Bush and his administration is simple: its end. By the beauties of the American electoral system that day is fast approaching.
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