October 26, 2021

War Veterans: We Miss President Bush

In a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, the majority of Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans miss President George W. Bush. Sixty-five percent called the 43rd president a good commander in chief, whereas only 42 percent felt the same way about Barack Obama.

Even with the Iraq War, half of veterans say it wasn’t worth the fight, but 53 percent still think Bush was a good commander in chief, though when you ask veterans who feel otherwise about the war’s purpose; Bush’s approval hits 80 percent.

Yet, there are partisan divides. It’s no secret that members of the military lean Republican. That’s especially the case for the veterans of these two wars. Nevertheless, the poll shows that more members who might be skeptical of Obama–and who do not hold him in high regard–still feel that he’s a good commander in chief:

While 42 percent of veterans say Obama is a good commander in chief, his overall approval rating was even lower at just 32 percent. Despite differing question wordings (yes-no for commander in chief vs. approve-disapprove handling his job overall), the gap indicates that veterans may see Obama’s military leadership as a relative strong suit for a president they otherwise dislike. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans lean more Republican and conservative than other Americans, a factor that makes them more apt to be skeptical of a Democratic president generically.

Also, the veterans who support President Obama are not in the majority, not by a long shot:

Fifty-one percent of active-duty service members and women say Obama is a good commander in chief, but both of these groups account for a less than a quarter of all of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.Obama’s efforts to trim military spending may also be hampering his ratings. Obama is seen as a good leader among veterans who believe that benefits for future generations of troops should be reduced in times of budget deficits; 55 percent in this group say Obama is a good commander in chief. But just 12 percent of veterans surveyed took this position, and Obama’s ratings as a military leader fall to 41 percent among the vast majority of veterans who oppose benefit cuts even in times of deficit.

While Obama and Republicans both agreed to limited military benefit cuts in the past (before reversing them), the survey indicates that Obama’s broader efforts to reduce military spending as the wars draw down runs up against a population of veterans who are deeply skeptical of being denied benefits they were promised.

Again, the partisan divide and the general political orientation of the military obviously played a large role in these findings, but given that President Bush’s image has been rehabilitated somewhat since he’s left office; it’s not just isolated to the finest our nation had to offer during the Iraq and Afghan wars.

In fact, from Carter to Bush 43, they’re all viewed more positively than negatively in the eyes of the American public, according to Gallup.