George W. Bush might be making a comeback after eight years. Since Donald Trump has taken office, the 43rd president — much-maligned by the end of his tenure in early 2009 — has been making the rounds (to promote his book, Portraits of Courage) on late-night and getting praise from liberals on social media.
Bush, 70, has made several positive impressions over the past couple of months. Back in September, critics couldn’t get enough when he and then first lady Michelle Obama were photographed embracing at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
“That picture of @MichelleObama hugging George W. Bush makes me smile…#ItsMy2Cents,” Larry King tweeted at the time. King, 83, told CNBC’s Joe Kernan in June 2016 that he hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate in almost 50 years.
Bush went on to get attention when he attended Trump’s inauguration on January 20. He chatted with Barack and Michelle Obama and Hillary and Bill Clinton, and even became a meme after he had a difficulty putting on a poncho. He’d go on to poke fun of himself during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in March.
One day after the inauguration, Aziz Ansari praised Bush while hosting Saturday Night Live. “I think Trump should make a speech. A real speech denouncing the lower-case K.K.K. Don’t tweet about me being lame or the show. Write a speech,” the actor said at the time. “Now George Bush, George W. Bush made a speech after 9/11, and it really helped. Things changed. This what he said in his speech, and I’m paraphrasing slightly. He said, ‘Islam is peace. The perpetrators of these attacks, they don’t represent Islam. They represent war and violence. Our enemies are not our Muslim brothers and sisters. Our enemies are a network of radical terrorists.’ And everyone applauded. Democrats, Republicans, it didn’t matter. Because it’s not about politics. It’s about basic human decency and remembering why the country was founded in the first place.”
Ansari’s monologue occurred on the same day as the Women’s March on Washington, where nearly 500,000 people spoke out against Trump’s administration around the world.
“I was sitting there and I’m watching this speech and I’m like, ‘What the hell has happened? I’m sitting here wistfully watching old George W. Bush speeches?’ Just sitting there like, ‘What a leader he was!'” Ansari continued. “Sixteen years ago, I was certain this dude was a dildo. Now, I’m sitting there like, ‘He guided us with his eloquence!'”
Many agreed. “OMG. Aziz Ansari is right. George W Bush did say that. How far has American [politics] fell that W bush is more sane & ok than trump #snl #jeez,” one person tweeted at the time. A second viewer wrote: “Aziz Ansari was sooooo right about George W. Bush. What different times.”
Back in 2008, the former Republican commander in chief ended his second term with a 25 percent approval rating, which is one of the lowest in presidential history. (According to The Hill, Trump’s current rating is 46 percent.)
His time in the Oval Office was tainted from the start. His Democratic opponent Al Gore conceded after a torturous 36-day Florida recount; many believed that the Iraq War was unnecessary — and entered under — false pretenses; and critics slammed him for responding inadequately to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Bush, who now creates oil paintings depicting U.S. military veterans, has spoken out against Trump in recent days. He laughed at anti-Trump jokes made during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live on March 2, and spoke about Trump’s relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin with DeGeneres.
“I had a contentious relationship with [Putin],” Bush said on March 2. “I think whoever the president is, is going to find out that Putin is going to push and push and push until someone stands up to him.”
Today, some voters appear to be giving Bush a second chance — or at least, siding with him on certain views. “These three facts can co-exist comfortably: George W. Bush was a bad president So far, Trump is worse Bush’s critiques of Trump are correct,” Hillary Clinton’s former staffer Peter Daou tweeted on February 28.
Bush also spoke out against the president, 70, during an interview with the Today show’s Matt Lauer, shortly after the White House blocked the New York Times, CNN and other outlets from attending a briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer.
“We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power. It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves,” Bush told Lauer on February 27. “Everybody looks at the president to see when they campaign one way, then they get in office and find out there’s a reality to the job. … It requires a lot of people coming together to make us united. It’s hard to unify the country, though, with the news media being so split up. When I was president, you mattered a lot more.”
Following the interview, liberal Joy Behar spoke positively about Bush. “The thing about this is that Donald has now done something I thought he would never do. I like — I like the fact that George Bush — I like George Bush now, is what I’m trying to say!” she said on The View. “I’m having trouble saying it.”
Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, added via Twitter: “I am typing these words: President George W. Bush is right. Freedom of the press is ‘indispensable to democracy.'”