Was George W. Bush a better president than you thought?
Some would say it started with a Minnesota billboard placed by an anonymous group of local businessmen. It's a photo of George W. Bush looking like Buddy Christ, next to three simple words: "Miss me yet?"
Conservatives and certain pollsters agree that 2010 seems to be a pretty good year for Bush. (Certainly better than 2001-2009! Ba-dum-CHING! Thank you, I'll be here all week.) And it's certainly true that Bush defenders have become more outspoken asoflate.
But the eye on a long-term reputation rehab emerged even before the former president left office, and can probably be traced to when he reportedly started reading the biography of Harry S Truman in 2006.
As Newsweek wrote at the time, "many presidents find solace in comparing themselves to their predecessors, the only people who could truly understand the job at hand. Truman is a favorite, particularly for presidents with low poll numbers. By 1952, the last year of his presidency, Truman's approval rating sank as low as 22 percent."
Of course, Bush would later exit the presidency with his own record-low 22 percent approval.
But Truman is generally seen these days as a good president — C-SPAN's Presidential Historian Survey ranks him an impressive No. 5 after Lincoln, Washington and the Roosevelts. Will time be as kind to Bush?
It remains to be seen, but Mark McKinnon and Myra Adams find much in common between the two:
"Both were skeptical of elites and the media, driven by their faith, had troubled presidencies, made momentous and difficult decisions, took the nation into war, were unpopular in their time and weren’t concerned about it. They deeply believed if they did the right thing, history would sort things out in the end," they wrote this month on The Daily Beast.
To burnish his reputation, Bush allies like Karen Hughes and Karl Rove have been working overtime to praise his tenure, and the future George W. Bush Presidential Library at SMU should only advance the cause. But there are independent Americans getting in on the legacy game. Inspired by the billboard, The Patriot Depot set up MissMeYet.com, selling tees and bumper stickers with the slogan and aiming to get a million signatures to send to Bush.
After a flurry of 7,000 in 48 hours, after two months the site has stalled at just over 17,000 names.
There are also those like Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, an Ohio man who founded Honor Freedom, an organization aiming to, in his words, "unite Bush supporters, correct the historical record by dispelling fallacies about George W. Bush and teach America the truth about the Bush foreign policy doctrine."
Of course, there's polishing up a résumé, and there's living in a fantasyland. As Dana Perino, Mary Matalin and Rudy Giuliani learned when they tried to sell the talking point that, in Perino's words "We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."
Now, Americans are not a particularly history-savvy group of folks (just ask Republicans if Reagan raised or lowered taxes and the national debt, or ask the Tea Partiers ... pretty much anything). But we do remember 9/11, and who the president was that day.
If Bush is having a resurgence, most Americans haven't noticed. According to a CBS/New York Times poll conducted this month, his approval rating is 27 percent, with disapproval at 58. If Bush wants to be the next Truman, he's got a long way to go.