Matt Latimer criticizes the Republican convention for the one thing it did right:
Remember George W. Bush? You might not if you watched last week’s GOP convention. The country’s last Republican president, elected to two terms in office and still popular enough in some parts of the country to produce a massive best-selling memoir, was mentioned about as often as Mad Cow Disease. That was a mistake. Former presidents, even controversial ones, are experienced performers who have stood on a convention stage before, made an argument to millions of people, and won their votes.
Let’s remember that Bush won the popular vote in 2004 by the slimmest margin of any modern sitting President, and he didn’t even manage to win the popular vote in 2000. Except for an extraordinary two years after 9/11, Bush was never very popular, and he became much less so soon after his re-election. He left office with the third-worst approval rating of any postwar President, and by the end of his second term he and his party had been soundly repudiated at the polls.
Bush became so unpopular in large part because he started an unnecessary war, and that war became one of the most unpopular American foreign wars ever fought. Even though many Democrats voted for it, he and his party took ownership of that war and continued to boast about their support for it long after the public had turned against it. It would have been madness for them to talk about Bush at any length, to say nothing of having him speak to the convention. This would have been like referring back to Woodrow Wilson’s record in 1924 as a reason to vote for Democrats.
The only reason that Republicans ought to have mentioned him was to state their disagreements with what he did, but we all understand that this was never going to happen. The bigger problem for the GOP is that there is still so little in Bush’s record that they oppose. Even though they don’t mention him by name, the party still accepts most of the policies he favored. Bush racked up some of his greatest failures in foreign policy, and it is here that the continuity with Bush is unfortunately undeniable.