Many people have noted that Bush has really been shunted aside during the Republican National Convention, and it's hardly surprising given his justifiably abysmal approval ratings. Dan Froomkin's provided good overviews of this dynamic this week in "Gustav's Silver Lining," "Bush Gets the Bum's Rush" and "President Who?" Laura Bush and Cindy McCain mainly spoke about Hurricane Gustav, so that's not a fair gauge (but they did mention President Bush, of course). Yet Bush's own speech, broadcasted from the White House, was extremely short, and mainly touted McCain.
This isn't a complete list of all speakers, but here's how many times Bush was mentioned by the headliners:
Fred Thompson: 0
Joe Lieberman: 0
Mitt Romney: 1
Rudy Giuliani: 0
Mick Huckabee: 0
Sarah Palin: 0
John McCain: ???
Sarah Palin and Alaska both received far more mention than Bush. (For that matter, so did Ronald Reagan and the Clintons.) As the VP pick and a relative unknown, certainly she'd be mentioned, but it's not as if she's been the defining face of conservative politics for the past eight years. Giuliani even managed to reference 9/11, of course, but without mention of Bush, in sharp contrast to his 2004 speech. I haven't gone through all of the less prominent speeches to see how prevalent this pattern is, but I suspect Bush doesn't appear often. (Let me know if I missed something significant.)
As to the one reference to Bush, it was shameless hackery. Here's Romney:
Last week, last week, did you hear any Democrats talk about the threat from radical, violent jihad? No. You see, Republicans believe that there is good and evil in the world. Ronald Reagan called out the evil empire. George Bush labeled the terror-sponsor states exactly what they are: the axis of evil.
Giuliani pulled a similar trick during the Republican primaries (and did again last night), suggesting that the Democrats hadn't discussed terrorism and national security when of course they had, merely because they didn't use his specific concocted phrase. In this case, to sell the same bullshit, Romney uses "radical, violent jihad." Cooler heads might point out that insinuating that Righteous America is involved in a holy war against those evil Muslims actually threatens America's national security, but Romney knows his audience – they want black and white, and they want to feel they're the good guys fighting Bush's "evildoers." Romney's sharp enough to build deniability into his language so he can claim he's not demonizing all Muslims, only the "radical, violent" set, but the RNC crowd definitely got his subtext. (Romney also avoided the word "crusade," that Bush used years ago.)
Mavericky John McCain has voted the Bush line over 90% of the time. Let's see how loyal the supposed man of honor is tonight.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)