“I believe Bush’s legacy will be almost entirely shaped by pop culture,” says Leslie Kreiner Wilson, executive director of Americana, the Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture. “Pop culture has always had some impact on our perception of presidents, but the media explosion since the 1980s has made things much harder on the presidents since then, like Bill Clinton and George W.”
Other observers believe that history’s verdict on Bush will be more forgiving than, say, his depiction in the TV sitcom “That’s My Bush” or the Eminem protest song “Mosh.” Put it this way: Bush’s ratings can only go up. When the Siena Research Institute asked 744 leading historians and political scientists to rank Bush as a president, the results spawned a “Rolling Stone” cover story proclaiming him the worst president ever. But the institute’s Tom Kelly, a history professor at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., says it takes at least 25 years to establish the academic record of a presidency. By then, emotions are lower and perspective is clearer.
“Pop culture is like cartooning,” says Mr. Kelly. “It creates a sharp image which reflects more, probably, about the mind of the individual who creates the image, than reality – although that doesn’t mean the image is wrong. But, also, it tends to pass.”