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Because Bill Clinton Is Popular, And George W. Bush Is Not

Ann Althouse asks a question:

Why is Bill Clinton appearing at the Democratic Convention and George Bush not appearing at the GOP Convention?

The answer is really very simple.

Bill Clinton is generally associated with a period of economic growth and success, a time when the Federal Government actually managed to run a budget surplus for the first time in decades (although said surpluses were made possible mostly because of creative bookkeeping that kept many items “off budget.) He left office while the economy was still in relatively good shape with a relatively high approval rating. Even the Monica Lewinsky scandal wasn’t enough to bring him own in the eyes of the public. While his approval and favorability numbers did decline for a time when that news came out, they eventually rebounded and it ended up being the Republican Congress that damaged itself by pursuing an impeachment that most Americans did not believe was warranted by the facts. Since he left office, Clinton has taken on the role of an elder statesmen, and has experienced a renaissance when his wife decided to make his own run for the President. Additionally, Clinton is widely seen as a skilled politician and is often begrudgingly admired by many of the Republicans who opposed him in the 1990s. Inviting Clinton to the Democratic Convention, then, is a pretty smart move on the part of the Democratic Party and the Obama Campaign.

George W. Bush, on the other hand, left office with a pathetically low job approval rating thanks to an unpopular war and an economic downturn that many still blame on his policies. Even his own Republican party has largely left him behind and done as much as they can to not associate themselves with his time in office. By his own choice, he has not taken on a political role in his post-Presidency, but it’s rather obvious that even if he had not made that decision, many of his fellow Republicans would rather that he just stay away and not remind the public of a Presidency that, at least looking back at this point, seems largely to have been a failure in many important respects. Giving George W. Bush a speaking role at the Republican Convention would have been utterly foolish.

Finally, I’d just direct Professor Althouse to this poll from earlier in the year:

Q41 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion
of Bill Clinton?
Favorable……………………………………………….. 54%
Unfavorable ……………………………………………. 38%
Not sure …………………………………………………. 8%

Q42 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion
of George W. Bush?
Favorable……………………………………………….. 45%
Unfavorable ……………………………………………. 46%
Not sure …………………………………………………. 9%

I’m actually surprised that Bush’s favorable numbers are that high because, in reality, the Bush years remain political poison for the GOP.

That’s why Bill Clinton is being invited to his party’s convention and George W. Bush is not.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Coincidentally The Big Picture brings “an amusing slice of history, from this day (August 25) 11 years ago::”

    President Bush said today that there was a benefit to the government’s fast-dwindling surplus, declaring that it will create ”a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.” He said that was ”incredibly positive news” because it would halt the growth of the federal government.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Also, the Bush presidency (all else – the September 11th attack and two unresolved wars – aside) ended with the onset of the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. A financial collapse that caused Americans to lose trillions of dollars in household wealth, equity and income.

    That alone would account for not-so-fond remembrances of the Bush years. I’m surprised that the unfavorable rating is not lower.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  3. For what it’s worth though, while I don’t think the Great Recession is in any real sense “Bush’s fault,” I do think he “piled on speed” before the crash. Principally through Greenspan’s easy money and through de-enforcement of the financial industry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @al-Ameda:

    surprised that the unfavorable rating is not lower worse.

    Sorry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. James in LA says:

    The W years are kryptonite. We may not speak, write, or even think about them at length, as if the whole 8 years did not exist. We went from Clinton to Obama without any breaks.

    To face those 8 years is to admit how it hobbles Romney to be able to discuss zero GOP governing achievements. He cannot even discuss his own in MA.

    Were governing the goal, of course, but the actual plan, by bathtub drowning, is to weaken govt to the point the waiting theocratic oligarchy can be ushered in. Regrettably, there are not sufficient numbers for this. Not by a mile. This is the last cycle the GOP will be seeking the all-white vote as its only coalition. The seeds of what comes after have not yet been planted, but it ain’t the tea party. 2014 is going to be VERY interesting.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  6. Rick Almeida says:

    Professor Althouse does not ask very good questions.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 2

  7. PJ says:

    Inviting Bush to the convention would make voters remember Bush and then they may discover the similarities between what Bush did and what Romney is looking to do.
    For some reason Romney doesn’t seem to think that’s a good idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  8. superdestroyer says:

    President Obama could end up be an anomaly for presidential legacies. President Obama will probably have high approval ratings after he leaves office even though the economy will probably be bad during his time in office, the national debt will double, and the U.S. will be on a path to lower quality of life and losing its status as a first world country.

    In a few years, Americans may look back at 8% unemployment as a good thing when compared to the future double digit unemployment rates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    @Rick Almeida: And her readers don’t have very good answers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  10. Stonetools says:

    Professor Althouse is a jackass. That is all.
    She thinks that Romney’s birther joke was really an attempt to attack Obama’s un- American policies. if you believe something as ludicrous as that, then I guess you can believe there is no difference between inviting Clinton to speak at the Democratic convention and inviting GWB to speak at the Republican convention.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  11. G.A. says:

    The accused rapist, sex offender, and impeached disgrace is the keynote speaker lol….

    Democrats are a sad joke…

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 30

  12. Me Me Me says:

    One party’s policies and governance are good for the nation.

    The other – not so much.

    The latter is the Republicans, who want to repeat all the mistakes that made the GWB administration such a huge disaster.

    Obviously, then, it is inconvenient to have him there as the spector at their feast of magical thinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  13. Moderate Mom says:

    Not so sure that Clinton speaking at the Convention is really a good idea. People remember the Clinton economy fondly, the Obama economy not so much. The comparison of the two doesn’t bode well for our current President.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 17

  14. superdestroyer says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    I doubt if anyone will point out that Clinton threw the Congressional Democrats under the bus to make deals with the Republicans on trade and welfare where as President Obama seem resolved to always stick with what the Congressional Democrats want.

    President Obama would have been better off trying triangulate off of the Congressional Democrats instead of trying to spend his time trying to trick the Republicans into stupid deals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  15. jan says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    Obama is using the Clinton economy in lieu of emphasizing his own dismal failures. Basically his entire campaign has been trivial jabs and accusations about everything and anything in order to escape espousing his fiscal record, unless he tosses around a few exaggerated job creation numbers to a crowd not having a convenient factchecker in tow.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 24

  16. jan says:

    @superdestroyer:

    That reminds me of some interesting info in the new book ‘Leading from Behind,’ which exposes more details as to what took place in that budget deal, between Boehner and Obama, that suddenly went sour. Supposedly Boehner agreed to some 800 bil in new revenue, if Obama seriously tackled entitlement reform, even ‘shaking hands’ on said agreement. Then Obama changed his tune, upped the revenues to a trillion, essentially killing the deal and blaming it on Boehner being piqued.

    This kind of back-stabbing is a pattern with Obama. He did the very same thing to John McCain, first agreeing to abide by the standards of campaign funding, and then weaseling out of it once he saw bigger money was out there to be made. The man is essentially a serial liar, and throws anyone or anything under the proverbial bus if, by doing so, it is of benefit to himself.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 27

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @jan:

    The man is essentially a serial liar, and throws anyone or anything under the proverbial bus if, by doing so, it is of benefit to himself.

    Well done, Jan. That describes Mitt Romney in most respects. In fact, if you’d added: arrogant, narcissistic, and willing to walk away from everything he’s ever said – you would have nailed it perfectly.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  18. al-Ameda says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    People remember the Clinton economy fondly, the Obama economy not so much.

    Actually, what people don’t like is the economy caused by the 2008 financial and housing market crash (e.g. the Bush economy).

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  19. Mr. Replica says:

    The man is essentially a serial liar, and throws anyone or anything under the proverbial bus if, by doing so, it is of benefit to himself.

    Yet, you seem to be willing to vote for Romney?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6DrH6P9OC0 :Mandate/Romneycare/Obamacare
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_w9pquznG4 : Pro-Choice
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3pYvXGKC5k : Minimum wage
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6_ktWZZmSo : Supported Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsPfLId1ndI : Gun Control
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMAn6O1IeoQ : Climate Change
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz0QCdkYJwI : Blind Trusts
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMgXZXkelUU : Tax Pledges.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_pgfWK3sxw : A Large Flip – Flop Collection that has most of what I already listed, plus more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  20. rudderpedals says:

    Prof. Althouse’s question is a thought experiment in many-universes theories. Blog readers are supposed to take it as an invitation to explore, not as a literal question. You can’t rule it out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  21. michael reynolds says:

    Can someone explain to me how Mr. Romney’s policies are different from Mr. Bush’s?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  22. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Can someone explain to me how Mr. Romney’s policies are different from Mr. Bush’s?

    No one can. Its why jan and the other Republican apologists don’t even mention Romney’s policies, let alone try to defend them. They simply repeat, ” The economy sucks” over and over.
    I believe that Clinton will remind voters how great the economy was during his Administration ( something no Republican can deny) , point out the mess Bush made of the economy, and then formally pronounce Obama as his worthy successor.
    Obama will unveil an new economic program and state that he aims to bring back the good times of the Clinton years-(“building a bridge to 1999 :-). He’ll combine that with an attack on the “Do Nothing” “Ryan” Congress, more interested in abolishing abortion rights than in jobs.By wrapping himself in the mantle of the Clintons and Truman, Clinton hopes to turn out the base and attract independents to his side.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  23. anjin-san says:

    Actually, what people don’t like is the economy caused by the 2008 financial and housing market crash

    And the housing market is now recovering, on Obama’s watch. Conservatives are silent as a grave on that one…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  24. Modulo Myself says:

    I think it would be better for Romney to have Bush up there. The Stalinist whitewash of 2001-2009 may have made sense in some strategy session or in a blog comment when some idiot wants to emphasize the economy’s weakness by calling it ‘Obama’s economy’. But it’s emptied the last bit of human emotion out of the party, and it’s going to contrast terribly with the cheesy warmth and emotion of the Democratic convention.

    For all intents and purposes, the Democrats are now the party of people who have memories and roots. The GOP is the party of Mitt Romney, a man who has changed all of his positions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  25. bill says:

    the poll is closer than i would have thought, time will be kind to W-just like it is to clinton. too bad obama doesn’t learn much from clinton about actually reaching across the aisle vs. blaming others for his dismal performance. it’s nearly 4 yrs later and his “on the job training” isn’t working- his lack of qualifications are screaming at us, at least those who listen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  26. bill says:

    @James in LA: you can read something other than the national review!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. @bill:

    I’ll see you and raise you “obstruction

    Democrats have rounded on revelations about a private dinner of House Republicans on inauguration day in 2009 in which they plotted a campaign of obstruction against newly installed president Barack Obama.

    During a lengthy discussion, the senior GOP members worked out a plan to repeatedly block Obama over the coming four years to try to ensure he would not be re-elected.

    If that hurts Americans, screw ‘em. Right bill?

    I mean what’s important here, a functioning and prosperous democracy, or the chance of a Republican win?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  28. anjin-san says:

    GW has been etch-a-sketched!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  29. bk says:

    although said surpluses were made possible mostly because of creative bookkeeping that kept many items “off budget.

    Couldn’t resist, could you, Doug? So is this the same as Bush funding the costs of the Iraq war through emergency funding measures, thereby keeping them “off budget”? Well then congratulations – you finally have a verifiable (kind of) “both sides do it” moment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  30. Kylopod says:

    I’m actually surprised that Bush’s favorable numbers are that high because, in reality, the Bush years remain political poison for the GOP.

    Though we need to be cautious in interpreting it because it’s just one poll, I have a theory about it. The poll looks like Bush’s favorability falls heavily (though not entirely) on partisan lines. And I have long believed that for all the talk of conservative disavowal of the Bush legacy, he still remains popular in the conservative camp–it’s just that a lot of conservatives are ashamed to admit it. Recall the 2010 poll that showed 57% of Tea Partiers with a positive view of Bush. That’s pretty astonishing for anyone who bought the claim that the TP was as much a reaction against Bush’s big-spending excesses as it was against the Obama presidency. I myself never bought that claim; I saw most of the TP as right-wing partisans who like to feign independence from Bush as a political strategy to gain back power. For all the talk of distancing themselves from Bush’s deficit-exploding policies, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single Republican in power willing to speak against the Bush tax cuts or his expensive wars. Even the policies of his that have always been controversial with the right–Medicare D and TARP–haven’t been shown to be make-or-break for conservative voters. Glenn Beck and Herman Cain backed TARP. Gingrich backed Medicare D, but that didn’t stop him from (briefly) becoming the right’s favorite alternative to Romney. There was a long period in which Bush was practically worshipped by the right (sometimes literally). It was only after their losses in 2006 and especially 2008 that they made a strenuous effort to rewrite him as a RINO exemplar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @G.A.:

    The accused rapist, sex offender, and impeached disgrace is the keynote speaker lol….

    Democrats are a sad joke…

    I find it interesting that you seem to think serial philandering worse than war crimes. You GA, are the joke. What is sad is that you, and so many like you, still get a vote.

    But, that’s America.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. datechguy says:

    I submit that normally a Clinton keynote is a good idea but with an “All Akin + War on women” all the time convention Bill Clinton might just be the wrong keynote. It’s a SNL skit or a Late night comic’s dream.

    I can’t wait to see a reporter ask Sandra Fluke and every single Democrat women at the convention asked the question: “Given the theme of respect for women how do you feel about having Bill Clinton as a keynote considering not only his improper behavior with a subordinate intern, the accusations of Rape by Juanita Broaddrick and his whole reputation as a ‘player’?”

    The YouTube videos of the answers should be instant classics.

    True many young women 25 and under might not even know about this stuff but as they say: “It will be fun to find out”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  33. An Interested Party says:

    …time will be kind to W-just like it is to clinton.

    Oh sure it will…after all, Clinton got a blowjob in the White House and lied about it, meanwhile, Bush presided over 9/11, the Katrina Disaster, the Iraq Debacle, and the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression…yeah, time will be so kind to W…

    …too bad obama doesn’t learn much from clinton about actually reaching across the aisle vs. blaming others for his dismal performance.

    So true! I’m sure the man who vowed to make sure the President served only one term would have been waiting to help him with open arms…

    I can’t wait to see a reporter ask Sandra Fluke and every single Democrat women at the convention asked the question: “Given the theme of respect for women how do you feel about having Bill Clinton as a keynote considering not only his improper behavior with a subordinate intern, the accusations of Rape by Juanita Broaddrick and his whole reputation as a ‘player’?”

    While there is no denying that Clinton is a royal letch, he’s not the one going around talking about “legitimate” rape nor is he trying to outlaw abortion in all cases…in short, Democrats have a far easier time explaining Clinton than Republicans do explaining their entire party platform…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. Or, it could be the notion that ex-presidents are supposed to keep a low profile and fade away. Most do just that. That’s what GWB wants to do.

    I feel like I keep stumbling into the Daily Kos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  35. An Interested Party says:

    I feel like I keep stumbling into the Daily Kos.

    So stumble over to RedState or Ace of Spades instead…trust me, no one will shed a tear over the loss of you…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. Rob in CT says:

    I can’t wait to see a reporter ask Sandra Fluke and every single Democrat women at the convention asked the question: “Given the theme of respect for women how do you feel about having Bill Clinton as a keynote considering not only his improper behavior with a subordinate intern, the accusations of Rape by Juanita Broaddrick and his whole reputation as a ‘player’?”

    The response to this isn’t actually that hard. Bill Clinton did some crappy things, and was accused of other even crappier things, but as a politician in power, he supported policies that made things better – or at least not worse – for women in America.

    Contrast with Mitt Romney who, as far as we know, hasn’t been shagging interns, but who has taken up policy positions that would (if enacted) be bad for women. [this is obviously a Dem-perspective argument. YMMV on whether you think the policies espoused by the present incarnation of the GOP would hurt women. I think it's very clear that they would]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  37. Barry says:

    @Kylopod: “Recall the 2010 poll that showed 57% of Tea Partiers with a positive view of Bush. That’s pretty astonishing for anyone who bought the claim that the TP was as much a reaction against Bush’s big-spending excesses as it was against the Obama presidency. ”

    But not to those who realized that the Tea Party was a bunch of Republicans in drag (so to speak), pretending that they had not trashed the place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0