The state of Wisconsin hated Brett Favre when he un-retired and left Green Bay. After playing a bewildering season with the Jets — notable mostly for his sexting scandal — he signed on to play for the fierce Green Bay rival Minnesota Vikings.
It’s hard to overstate just how hard Wisconsin took this betrayal. I even contributed to a blog called BrentFavre.com that sold shirts with the slogan “We’ll never forget you, Brent.” The website tagline: “The blog borne from treachery.”
At the time, it seemed like Favre was the living embodiment of the line from Two Face: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” It was difficult to imagine a more bitter divorce.
Around that time, there was a lot of talk about Favre’s legacy in Green Bay. The general consensus was it was tarnished if not broken beyond repair.
But I remember some pundit bringing up the example of Vince Lombardi, who had also left Green Bay on less than cordial terms. Apparently, it left a sour taste to locals after he left Wisconsin to coach the Redskins in his final years.
But in our collective state memory, Vince Lombardi is literally a saint. Time heals all wounds.
Of course, Favre eventually did come back to Lambeau to a hero’s welcome, bordering on the second coming.
Which brings me to George W. Bush.
Remember when George W. Bush started two wars and the financial market nearly melted down completely during his presidency? Those narratives were certainly thrown at Republicans back in the day, to the point that John McCain tried mightily to distance himself from Bush’s legacy and dismal 25% approval ratings during the 2008 campaign. But try as he might, Bush stuck like a weight around McCain’s neck.
“You will hear from my opponent’s campaign in every speech, every interview, every press release that I’m running for President Bush’s third term,” McCain said, trying to pre-empt one of the central Democratic strategies of tying McCain to the unpopular president. “You will hear every policy of the president described as the Bush-McCain policy.”
UPDATE: McCain now embraces Bush as “my friend.”
But now it seems like the Bush legacy has shifted, at least to progressives. George W. Bush’s Iraq War was only brought up as a negative during the 2016 election… by the Republican candidate who said he never supported it.
In the years following his presidency, Bush largely disappeared during the public view. He faded from our collective memories surprisingly fast.
But now, suddenly, he’s back on the scene, with a personal art exhibit, making quirky visits on Ellen, saying strong words defending the importance of the free press and expressing affection for Michelle Obama. And progressives are embracing him.
what is going on here.
Of course, Bush’s rehabilitation act — at least with progressives — isn’t new. And there’s still plenty of time to determine his legacy. But time has been generous to many presidents who left office in low esteem, such as Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter.
Maybe it’s a PR campaign. Maybe partisan lines are being redrawn. Maybe it’s the passage of time. Maybe it’s all of that, or none of that. I don’t know.
But I think Two Face got it half right.
You can either die a villain, or live long enough to see yourself become the hero.