I have heard several times that George W Bush will go down in history as one of our worst presidents. This comes mostly from the Bush is stupid crowd, Cheney is evil, and the only ethical thing anyone could do in the last election cycle was vote for Obama. Still, there is a growing consensus that he will be treated harshly by history, and although it may be right, it may be colossally wrong.
All presidents presiding during wars have a difficult time politically. Lyndon Johnson didn't run in 1968 for a second term because of the Vietnam War. Harry Truman declined to run in 1952 because of the Korean War, and during his tenure Abraham Lincoln had serious political problems. Franklin D Roosevelt had few political difficulties, but the news reporting was almost entirely supportive, and fictional. Lincoln, Roosevelt and Truman were all treated kindly by history, and although Johnson was not elevated to their status, he was rehabilitated.
There are three things Bush did during his tenure that I agree with. In my opinion everything else was a disaster. Early on our "free trading" president imposed steel quotas. The attempted explanations for it were laughable. He looked into Putin's eyes and must have been blinded. He couldn't have read the man more wrong. He signed campaign finance reform, seriously curtailing free speech in America. He passed No Child Left Behind, a feeble attempt to improve education. The problem is it was guaranteed to fail once the Teachers Union learned how to game it..and they would..and they did. He supported an immigration bill that only an anarchist could love (in spite of the lofty rhetoric about compassion), and even worse, he signed a series of budget bills that would make a socialist blush. These were not his proudest moments.
On the plus side, he lowered taxes to the betterment of everyone, rich and poor. They created jobs, created wealth, and continued a long tradition of economic expansion. The current economic disaster has roots that are independent of the tax cuts, although tying the two together will probably become a political hammer for the left. He appointed two excellent Supreme Court justices (even if he had to be coerced into withdrawing Harriet Meirs and naming Sam Alito). However, neither of these things, nor the negative ones listed above, will affect his legacy.
What will determine history's judgment is Bush's prosecution of the Iraq War and the broader war on terror. This and only this is what will be noted by history. The reason I am so perplexed by those who "know" his legacy will be a disaster is because the jury is still out on these issues, and will remain undecided for some time. The middle east or Iraq may blow up and Bush will be blamed. But not until we know where the war takes the middle east and radical Islam will we know his legacy.
It is very possible things will play out in a way that could put the President on Mt. Rushmore (figuratively, of course). What if democracy really does take hold in Iraq and throughout the region? Is that impossible? Might not other Arab countries follow the Iraqi lead? What if moderate Muslims gain power and support the west in fighting the terrorists, much the way the Iraqis did during the Sunni awakening (the point at which the Sunnis joined the Shiites and American forces to get rid of the terrorists)? History has a way of fooling us all, and I make no claim to having any better insight than anyone else. But such positive developments wouldn't be shocking. The current success in Iraq might become a springboard from which great things could happen.
The left told us that Arabs could never live in a democratic state (they said the same thing about the Japanese after world war two). Iraq is proving them wrong. They said Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror. But Al Qaeda terrorists raced to get there and, to our surprise, gave us a target we could shoot at. It is true that this was never part of the plan when the war started, but surprises are the norm in a war. It is estimated that 12,000 Al Quaeda were in Iraq at one point. All but about 1000 have been killed or driven out, and those remaining are in hiding. Two years ago the liberals said the war was lost. When the surge reversed the tide of the war, they said the there was no political progress. Now that the political progress is moving along, they just don't talk about it. And the battalion on their left flank (aka the main stream media), has chosen not to mention it either. How much do you read in your news sources about what is going on in Iraq? If the accuracy of the past predictions from the left are any guide, our President has a good chance of making a big mark in history.
Don't misunderstand. Things could reverse themselves. But for now, at least the possibility exists that the bold action taken by Bush will change the world. If the middle east becomes a liberal society, it could be a greater transformation than all other societal changes in the twentieth century combined.
Let us pray...