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 No Child Left Behind is being revised and perhaps improved, but not repealed.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.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Beware, hard Brexiteers - Ruth Davidson is coming for you

The Scottish Conservative leader is well-positioned to fight. 

Wanted: Charismatic leader with working-class roots and a populist touch who can take on the Brexiteers, including some in the government, and do so convincingly.

Enter Ruth Davidson. 

While many Tory MPs quietly share her opposition to a hard Brexit, those who dare to be loud tend to be backbenchers like Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan. 

By contrast, the Scottish Conservative leader already has huge credibility for rebuilding her party north of the border. Her appearances in the last days of the EU referendum campaign made her a star in the south as well. And she has no qualms about making a joke at Boris Johnson’s expense

Speaking at the Institute of Directors on Monday, Davidson said Brexiteers like Nigel Farage should stop “needling” European leaders.

“I say to the Ukip politicians, when they chuckle and bray about the result in June, grow up,” she declared. “Let us show a bit more respect for these European neighbours and allies.”

Davidson is particularly concerned that Brexiteers underestimate the deeply emotional and political response of other EU nations. 

The negotiations will be 27 to 1, she pointed out: “I would suggest that macho, beer swilling, posturing at the golf club bar isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

At a time when free trade is increasingly a dirty word, Davidson is also striking in her defence of the single market. As a child, she recalls, every plate of food on the table was there because her father, a self-made businessman, had "made stuff and sold it abroad". 

She attacked the Daily Mail for its front cover branding the judges who ruled against the government’s bid to trigger Article 50 “enemies of the people”. 

When the headline was published, Theresa May and Cabinet ministers stressed the freedom of the press. By contrast, Davidson, a former journalist, said that to undermine “the guardians of our democracy” in this way was “an utter disgrace”. 

Davidson might have chosen Ukip and the Daily Mail to skewer, but her attacks could apply to certain Brexiteers in her party as well. 

When The Staggers enquired whether this included the Italy-baiting Foreign Secretary Johnson, she launched a somewhat muted defence.

Saying she was “surprised by the way Boris has taken to the job”, she added: “To be honest, when you have got such a big thing happening and when you have a team in place that has been doing the preparatory work, it doesn’t make sense to reshuffle the benches."

Nevertheless, despite her outsider role, the team matters to Davidson. Part of her electoral success in Scotland is down the way she has capitalised on the anti-independence feeling after the Scottish referendum. If the UK heads for a hard Brexit, she too will have to fend off accusations that her party is the party of division. 

Indeed, for all her jibes at the Brexiteers, Davidson has a serious message. Since the EU referendum, she is “beginning to see embryos of where Scotland has gone post-referendum”. And, she warned: “I do not think we want that division.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.