Entertaining column from academic Stanley Fish, no fan of G.W. Bush. But, he notes that the president will probably enjoy lofty approval after he leaves office:
And the fact is that he’s likable. I don’t mean on the superficial level of being someone you’d want to have a beer with. It’s deeper than that. He comes across as a basically decent man who is at peace with himself. Despite the fun poked at his verbal maladroitness, he is actually quite skillful (certainly more skillful than either Al Gore or John Kerry) in conveying his positions succinctly and persuasively. (He didn’t win two national elections — well, maybe one — by accident.) He may not be an intellectual, but he isn’t dumb and he is shrewd enough to play his “aw shucks” personality for all it’s worth. And he has a really good sense of humor (something Barack Obama seems to lack) and a comedian’s ability to make capital out of his own malapropisms. Putting aside the agendas for which he will no longer be held responsible, what’s not to like?
In addition, the road to rehabilitation will be shorter for him than it was for some of his predecessors. It took a while for Harry Truman’s feistiness to erase the memory of the 22 percent favorable rating he had at the end of his tenure. Richard Nixon had to make his way back from disgrace, and he did it being smarter than anyone else (he was, I think, the smartest president of the 20th century) and becoming an astute political commentator and historian. Jimmy Carter just continued being good and after a while it payed off in a Nobel Prize. Bush I’s basic, undemanding decency kept shining through after he left office. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan didn’t need rehabilitation; each would have won a third term easily and still could (even though Reagan is dead).
He even suggests a future career for the soon-to-be ex-president — baseball commissioner. Now, that’s an idea I can support.