In our Scripps Howard column this week, Ben Boychuk and I examine George W. Bush's rising poll numbers as the former president goes on tour to support his new book, "Decision Points." My take:
George W. Bush is more popular than he was two years ago? Of course he is! His approval rating really had nowhere to go but up.
And since he hasn't had his hand at the wheel of government for nearly two years now -- some might argue that it's actually been longer than that -- it's easy, natural and understandable for Americans to lose some of the passion in the white-hot grudge they once deservedly held against him.
Here's what I wrote in this space in December 2008: "Consider this record: Hurricane Katrina. The financial meltdown. An explosive national debt. No WMDs in Iraq. Warrantless wiretapping.
"Torture. The list goes on and on. In most democracies, such a litany of failure and abuse would have led to the resignation of the chief executive long before now."
Nothing in that list has changed in the last two years, of course: It is history, set in concrete, impossible to undo. And none of it reflects any better on Bush now than it did then.
Bush has been fond, over the years, of saying that history will vindicate his decisions. Here's the problem, though: History never loses its job or pension. History never sacrifices its son in a war fought for a flimsy premise. History is never waterboarded, never has its phone calls and e-mails intercepted, never pays a price. It's the people who actually live through an era who must deal with the real-time consequences -- and benefits -- of a president's bad decisions.
Their judgment, expressed in the 2006 and 2008 electoral repudiation of the GOP, should count heavily in history's ledger.
Our memories of that time are already growing hazy. They can never grow hazy enough to make Bush a good president. He was one of the worst.