Stanley Fish gleefully watches the former president’s public estimation reascend, as Obama’s precipitously sinks. Bush derangement is evolving into Bush nostalgia.
I know youâ€™re not supposed to, but I just love to say I told you so. ..â€
Well itâ€™s a bit more than a year now and signs of Bushâ€™s rehabilitation are beginning to pop up. One is literally a sign, a billboard that appeared recently on I-35 in Minnesota. Occupying the right side (from the viewerâ€™s viewpoint) is a picture of Bush smiling genially and waving his hand in a friendly gesture. Occupying the left side is a simple and direct question: â€œMiss me yet?â€ The image is all over the Internet, hundreds of millions of hits, and unscientific Web-based polls indicate that more do miss him than donâ€™t.
A perhaps more substantial sign incorporates a sign famous (or infamous) in the Bush presidency. The March 8 cover of Newsweek reproduces the famous 2003 photograph of Bush on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Lincoln. The president is in the left of the picture, striding away from the famous banner proclaiming â€œMission Accomplished.â€
Those words haunted Bush for the next five years, but now, Newsweek reports, they may play differently because â€” and this is emblazoned on the cover â€” we may have â€œVictory At Last.â€ It has to be said, declare the cover-storyâ€™s writers, that â€œnow almost seven hellish years later . . . something that looks mighty like democracy is emerging in Iraqâ€; and, they add (eerily echoing Bushâ€™s words in 2003), this development â€œmost certainly is a watershed event that could come to represent a whole new era in the history of the massively undemocratic Middle East.â€
Of course, one might disagree with that assessment, but the fact that it is made in the lead article of a major mainstream magazine tells its own story. It is a story that intersects with another, the story of the precipitous decline in Barack Obamaâ€™s support and of a growing suspicion, found on the left as well as on the right, where it is much more than a suspicion, that the politics of change may have been a slogan with less promise in its future than â€œMission Accomplished.â€ (The imminent passage of a health care bill keeps being predicted, but so far no â€œvictory at last.â€)
Meanwhile, Bushâ€™s policies came to seem less obviously reprehensible as the Obama administration drifted into embracing watered-down versions of many of them. Guantanamo hasnâ€™t been closed. No Child Left Behind is being revised and perhaps improved, but not repealed. The banks are still engaging in their bad practices. Partisanship is worse than ever. Obama seems about to back away from the decision to try 9/11 defendants in civilian courts, a prospect that led the ACLU to run an ad in Sundayâ€™s Times with the subheading â€œChange or more of the same?â€ Above that question is a series of photographs that shows Obama morphing into guess who â€” yes, thatâ€™s right, George W. Bush.