George W. Bush's Radioactive Second Term

President George W. Bush keeps paying for his second term.

The exit polls in this year's presidential election found that American voters, by 53 percent to 38 percent, thought Bush deserved greater responsibility for the current economic difficulties than President Barack Obama.

Bush was a pariah on the campaign trail this year. He didn't appear at the Republicans' Tampa convention and wasn't even mentioned there in speeches by the nominee, Mitt Romney, the vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, or the keynote speaker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. About the only convention attention he received was from the Democrats, when his predecessor, Bill Clinton, offered mild praise for his support for AIDS funding in Africa.

During the campaign, Romney went out of his way to stress how different he was from George W. Bush, though their policies on tax cuts and deregulation seemed almost identical.

The former Republican president's problems date back to the first year after his 2004 re-election. Miscalculating, the White House decided to focus on an overhaul of Social Security, without gathering any Democratic support. The proposal went nowhere and the political damage was considerable.

He then rushed to sign legislation allowing the federal government to prevent a Florida man from removing the feeding tubes keeping alive his wife, who was in a persistent vegetative state. Ultimately, that too was thwarted and an autopsy showed she was severely brain damaged.

Finally, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Bush was AWOL.

Bush might take some solace from President Harry Truman, who was even more unpopular when he left office in 1953 than Bush is now. Today, Truman is considered one of the great presidents. Then again, there's the Republican Herbert Hoover who left office in 1933. More than three decades later, Democrats are still successfully running against his polices.

(Albert R. Hunt is Washington editor at Bloomberg News and a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

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