As President Bush hosts his successor and predecessors for lunch today, he is the least popular by far of any of them.
But a poll out today suggests he has cause for hope that Americans will look more kindly on him in years to come.
In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton all received higher approval ratings further away from when they were in the White House. The poll found that 69 percent approve of how Clinton handled the presidency, up from 51 percent in March 2002; 64 percent approve of Carter's performance, up from 45 percent in November 1990; and 60 percent approve of Bush's, up from 58 percent in November 1993.
In the same survey, conducted Dec. 19-21 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, Bush's approval rating was 27 percent and Obama's was 82 percent.
Before the lunch, they all gathered for a brief photo opportunity in the Oval Office.
According to the press pool report, President Bush said, "I want to thank the president-elect for joining the ex-presidents for lunch. And one message that I have and I think we all share is that we want you to succeed. Whether we're Democrat or Republican we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have served in this office understand that the office itself transcends the individual and we wish you all the very best and so does the country."
Obama responded, "I just want to thank the president for hosting us. This is an extraordinary gathering. All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office, and for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary and I'm very grateful to all of them. But again thank you, Mr. President, for hosting.
After the lunch, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs issued this statement:
"They had a very constructive conversation. The President-elect was grateful for their counsel and the spirit of bipartisanship they showed in wishing his Administration success in meeting the challenges we all share as Americans. The President and the former Presidents had helpful advice on managing the office as well as thoughts on the critical issues facing the country right now. The President-elect is anxious to stay in touch with all of them in the coming years."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.