I’m curious to know how many watched last night’s farewell address by President Bush. Certainly W can be called many things: Stubborn, dangerously loyal, the Word-Mangler-in-Chief. But he cannot be called phony. He is as authentic a president as we’ve had since Reagan, and you can argue he is even less polished and layered than the Gipper.

It’s indisputable that we live in an unprecedented era of manufactured politics. Both parties are guilty of packaging and messaging their themes to the point that they resemble fast food. Nice commercials, free toys, most of their ideas look good on the menu, but they all give you terrible gas.

And their leaders? They’re as authentic and honest as Barney Frank at a strip club. Bill Clinton? Phony. Mitt Romney? Too much glitz. Hillary Clinton? Poll-driven and spineless.

And what about the likes of Trent Lott, Ted Stevens, John McCain? The right arm promises one thing, but the left is picking his nose and your pocket. Sure, these intellectual midgets would like you to think they’re the real deal, agents of the people, standing at all times and all places for the best interests of their constituents. Right. And Nancy Pelosi is religiously opposed to face lifts.

Obama’s no better. Democrats can argue this point, but they’d be lying. Perhaps there’s never been a more manufactured candidate. “He’s one of us!” They shouted at his rallies. Really? You went to Harvard Law? You have a multimillion dollar book deal? You began your first autobiography the morning after you made it through the entire night without wetting the bed?

BHO, the most liberal senator in that great mortuary on the Hill, was marketed as a centrist tool for change. If we’d actually been voting for the real Obama, and not the brand with the pretty logo, the results might have been different. Think about it, just how terrible was John Geriatric as a national top-of-the-ticket candidate? Two words: Obama won.

Back to Bush. If after last night’s heartfelt and deeply personal address, you can still call yourself a Bush Hater, then the country has no use for you and I’ll donate my Delta SkyMiles to ship you abroad.

Did Bush make mistakes? Sure he did. So did Congress. So did the Supreme Court. So has your local mayor.

Lest we forget, Bush had 8 out of 96 months to do something other than make defending America from terrorists his priority numbero uno. And it seems pointless to remind the Bush Haters of this for the 5,148,873rd time, but virtually the entire free world supported going into Iraq. The only ones opposed (exempli gratia: BHO) wouldn’t have gone to war even if Saddam had given a televised tour of a 24/7 Iraqi WMD-mart.

Have I been frustrated with Bush? Well duh. I wish he’d vetoed the bogus Campaign Finance Reform bill. I wish he’d vetoed the bloated budgets Congress repeatedly sent him. I wish he’d never created the massive prescription drug benefit program, I really wish he’d given Harry Reid both a wedgie and a wet willy at the 2005 White House Christmas party.

But in retrospect, Bush did pretty darn well with the history-defining cards dealt him on September 11th, 2001. Bush Haters will say he’s personally responsible for the current economic meltdown. But that’s such a juvenile and ill-informed position that it’s not worth rebutting. Suffice it to say the collapse was a longtime coming. And if you made a list of the reasons your cute little home has lost value, George W. Bush wouldn’t make the top 100.

I predict last night’s address will help move the needle. His approval numbers will rise beginning Wednesday. And not just because BHO is the one assuming the mantle, the same would have been true if J-Mac had won in November. W’s numbers will improve because you cannot compare a sitting president to a president-elect. Everything looks better on the menu.

And what will Bush Haters say when Obama continues some of the Bush administration policies? He’s already indicated, particularly in foreign policy, that he’ll be staying the course in many ways and his cabinet picks have been mostly praised by republicans. So if Bush Idea #1 continues under BHO, does it suddenly become a better idea because it’s being executed by a founding member of Toast Masters?

I challenge Bush Haters, and even Bush Dislikers, to read the text of last night’s farewell address and find fault. Tell me you think he lied, tell me you think he doesn’t have America’s best interest at heart, tell me he hasn’t tried for every single one of these 96 months to do what he thought was the best for this country. Go ahead.

I predict history will treat President George W. Bush much more kindly than we have. And it won’t take decades, watch for a significant rise in his popularity beginning January 21.