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GOP: George W. Bush

January 3, 2012 by staff 

GOP: George W. BushGOP: George W. Bush, A funny thing happened recently in the presidential campaign in Iowa: The last Republican president’s name actually surfaced. “We’ve had, in the past, a couple of presidents from Texas that said they weren’t interested in wars … like George W. Bush,” a voter said to Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who has been sharply critical of U.S. military entanglements overseas. “My question is: How can we trust another Texan?”

It was an odd, almost discordant moment in a GOP contest where Bush, a two-term president who left office just three years ago, has gone all but unmentioned. While the candidates routinely lionize Ronald Reagan and blame President Barack Obama for the nation’s economic woes, none has been eager to embrace the Bush legacy of gaping budget deficits, two wars and record low approval ratings — or blame him for the country’s troubles either.

“Republicans talk a lot about losing their way during the last decade, and when they do they’re talking about the Bush years,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont-McKenna College. “For Republicans, the Bush administration has become the `yadda yadda yadda’ period of American history.”

The eight-year Bush presidency has merited no more than a fleeting reference in televised debates and interviews. When it does surface it’s often a point of criticism, as when former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told CNN on Sunday that he regretted voting for the No Child Left Behind education law Bush championed.

The former president himself has been all but invisible since leaving office in 2009 with a Gallup approval rating of just 34 percent. His predecessor, Democrat Bill Clinton, had a 66 percent approval rating in early 2001 when he stepped down after two terms marred by a sex scandal and impeachment.

In a presidential contest dominated by concerns over the weak economy, government spending and the $15 trillion federal debt, the Republican candidates have been loath to acknowledge the extent to which Bush administration policies contributed to those problems. Republicans also controlled Congress for six of the eight years Bush was in the White House, clearing the way for many of his policies to be enacted.

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