“The advantage we have is — I am actually a very popular president, which people don’t like to say, you know. In fact, I guess the Republican poll came out, there’s one at 92 and one at 93 and one at 90, and they’re the highest numbers that have ever been, with the exception of a tiny period of time with a bullhorn.
What Trump is referring to is what is broadly seen as the iconic moment of George W. Bush’s presidency.
There’s no question that Bush’s poll numbers, which had been middling following his contested victory less than a year earlier, shot through the roof. In Gallup polling conducted between Sept. 7-10, 2001, Bush’s approval was at 51%. The next poll Gallup did — Sept. 21-22, 2001 — Bush’s approval was 90%. Among Republicans, Bush was at 87% approval prior to the terror attacks and at 98% just after them.
All of which is, in truth, beside the point.
The point is this: The current President of the United States filtered a set of terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people — and fundamentally altered the way in which we see ourselves and our world — through the prism of poll numbers. In Trump’s world, everything is a competition between himself and everyone who has been president in the past. (Remember his riff last week about how he is more popular among Republicans than “Honest Abe” Lincoln.) In Trump’s mind, Bush got an unfair advantage because terrorists attacked the country and he got to benefit from “a tiny period of time with a bullhorn.” (Imagine my poll numbers if I had an attack like that, Trump is clearly insinuating.)
To reduce the events of September 11 and all that has come after it to “a tiny period of time with a bullhorn” should provoke outrage. Among all of us. In the world of Trump, however, it was overlooked. It shouldn’t be.