No soul compromising necessary

NO SOUL COMPROMISING NECESSARY…. George W. Bush will, from time to time, comment on his remarkable unpopularity. His responses always seem so odd.

President George W. Bush knows he’s unpopular. But here’s what matters, he says: “I didn’t compromise my soul to be a popular guy.” In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News Channel, Bush also praised the national security team assembled by President-elect Barack Obama, offered hope to U.S. automakers seeking government assistance and said the people of Illinois will have to sort out allegations that Gov. Rod Blagojevich sought kickbacks in choosing a successor for Obama’s Senate seat.

Bush said presidents fail when they make decisions based on opinion polls.

“Look, everybody likes to be popular,” said Bush.

“What do you expect? We’ve got a major economic problem and I’m the president during the major economic problem. I mean, do people approve of the economy? No. I don’t approve of the economy. … I’ve been a wartime president. I’ve dealt with two economic recessions now. I’ve had, hell, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is I didn’t compromise my soul to be a popular guy.”

Bush really does seem to think this is an either/or situation — he could either do things that would make a popular president with broad support from Americans, or he could maintain the integrity of his “soul.” Those, as far as he’s concerned, are his choices.

But this is foolish. On the one hand, he “compromised” his “soul” plenty of times, supporting policies — such as the financial industry bailout — that completely contradict the philosophical principles he holds dear.

On the other hand, Bush seems to think Americans have been demanding that he “compromise” his “soul” to coincide with public whims. This, of course, is nonsense. For years, most voters have effectively been looking for little more than basic competence from their president. When Bush failed to meet even this low standard, his disapproval numbers soared.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Bush doesn’t understand this, but it never ceases to amaze me.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.