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Some U.S. leaders earn high approval marks page 2
Mark Shields' op-ed column: Remembering ...

Date published: 12/31/2012


In an exit interview after 32 years in the U.S. House with PBS's "NewsHour," the outspoken Massachusetts liberal Barney Frank was asked by interviewer Paul Solman about his "failures, regrets?" Frank's answer: "I should have voted for the first Iraq War. George Bush did that one very well."

One mistake President Bush did make in pressing his case for the U.S. going to war was his repeated comparing of Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler. The U.N. resolution and the multi-nation coalition had agreed only to drive Saddam out of Kuwait, not out of Baghdad. So when Saddam did eventually regroup and resume his oppression of the Kurds, in particular, Bush was criticized for not having removed from power the man he had equated with the Nazi monster.

After the Gulf War triumph, President Bush's positive job-approval rating soared to 89 percent, which remains the highest ever registered in Gallup Poll history. Bush's sky-high numbers helped to persuade most leading Democratic presidential prospects--such as Sens. Albert Gore of Tennessee, Bill Bradley of New Jersey, and Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, as well as Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo--that they individually "want to spend more time with my family," rather than to run in 1992 for the office most of them had semi-openly lusted after.

Those men's decisions not to run provided an unintended opening for a young, long-shot Southern governor who, barely 20 months after the incumbent chief executive had surpassed even Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan in voter approval polls, would defeat President Bush. He, Bill Clinton, would then, in 1996, become the first Democrat since FDR to win a second White House term.

Unless we remember, a wise man wrote, we cannot understand.

Mark Shields is a columnist for Creators Syndicate.

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