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Nostalgia for Dad?

In response to:

Prophet and Outcast Bush from the February 25, 2016 issue

To the Editors:

Joseph Lelyveld errs in his review of Jon Meacham’s book on the first President Bush [NYR, February 25], claiming that his son’s presidency made the father, by comparison, “an object of nostalgia and regard.” Polling data indicates something entirely different. “Nostalgia” for George H.W. Bush’s presidency actually rose during the Clinton years, with his retrospective job approval (measured by Gallup) peaking at 76 percent in 1999, a year after Monica Lewinsky became a household name. That’s an extraordinary reversal of fortune for a politician who won only 37 percent of the vote seven years earlier.

That high level of regard did not last, however, into his son’s presidency. The father’s retrospective approval fell repeatedly after 2000, reaching a low of 56 percent in 2006. This evidence suggests that Americans were, to some extent, holding the father responsible for what was happening on his son’s watch.

Russell L. Riley
Associate Professor and Co-Chair
Presidential Oral History Program
The Miller Center, University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia