Do you miss George W Bush?

The rehabilitation of the US ex-president begins.

Of course you don't. But a growing number of Americans do.

The most visible sign of George W Bush's rehabilitation is a now famous billboard in Wyoming, Minnesota, featuring a smiling, waving Bush, opposite the line: "Miss me yet?"

Rumour originally suggested that the billboard was an internet hoax, but reporters on the ground in Wyoming soon confirmed it was real. That just left the question of who paid for the thing. Bob Collins of NPR's Minnesota Public Radio eventually revealed the culprits:

Mary Teske, the general manager of Schubert & Hoey Outdoor Advertising reports, "The Bush Miss Me Yet? billboard was paid for by a group of small business owners who feel like Washington is against them. They wish to remain anonymous. They thought it was a fun way of getting out their message."

So, even though Bush's legacy includes an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and economic collapse, it turns out that the poster isn't intended to be ironic.

But businessmen aren't the only ones indulging in Bush revisionism. Over at the New York Times, Stanley Fish points to a recent Newsweek cover story which argues that Bush's decision to invade Iraq has been vindicated by the country's most recent election.

He also puts his finger on why a significant section of the US electorate are ready to reassess the 43rd president:

Bush's policies came to seem less obviously reprehensible as the Obama administration drifted into embracing watered-down versions of many of them. Guantanamo hasn't been closed. No Child Left Behind is being revised and perhaps improved, but not repealed. The banks are still engaging in their bad practices. Partisanship is worse than ever.

But Barack Obama need not fear: most Americans don't really want his predecessor back in the White House. A recent Newsmax/Zogby poll found that, in a hypothetical election between Obama and Bush, Obama would win by 48 per cent to 38 per cent.

And yet, if, as my colleague Mehdi Hasan contends, Obama has morphed into Bush, perhaps it's not surprising that some Americans long for the real thing.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.