THE BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT…. With several years having passed since their terms in office, the living former presidents apparently look pretty good to most Americans.

Sixty percent of Americans questioned in a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday morning say they approve of how George H.W. Bush handled his job as president, and 64 percent give a thumbs up to former President Carter.

Those numbers are about double the approval ratings each had when he was voted out of office after one term.

“Time has been kind to the former presidents,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director. “Carter’s approval rating was just 31 percent on the eve of the 1980 election, and was at 34 percent in late December of that year, the last measure taken during his presidency. But now 64 percent approve of how Carter handled his job as president.”

I imagine it has to sting in some conservative circles that Carter’s presidency enjoys more support than H.W. Bush’s.

In any case, CNN’s Holland added, “The current occupant of the White House probably hopes history will treat him as kindly as it did his predecessors.”

That’s no doubt true, but Bush shouldn’t get his hopes up. Isn’t it likely that Carter, H.W. Bush, and Clinton look even better in hindsight because a whole lot of Americans are comparing them to George W. Bush?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.