by Fred Barnes - January 19th, 2009 (Publication Date) - The Weekly Standard
The postmortems on the presidency of George W. Bush are all wrong. The liberal line is that Bush dangerously weakened America's position in the world and rushed to the aid of the rich and powerful as income inequality worsened. That is twaddle. Conservatives--okay, not all of them--have only been a little bit kinder. They give Bush credit for the surge that saved Iraq, but not for much else.
He deserves better. His presidency was far more successful than not. And there's an aspect of his decision-making that merits special recognition: his courage. Time and time again, Bush did what other presidents, even Ronald Reagan, would not have done and for which he was vilified and abused. That--defiantly doing the right thing--is what distinguished his presidency.
Bush had ten great achievements (and maybe more) in his eight years in the White House, starting with his decision in 2001 to jettison the Kyoto global warming treaty so loved by Al Gore, the environmental lobby, elite opinion, and Europeans. The treaty was a disaster, with India and China exempted and economic decline the certain result. Everyone knew it. But only Bush said so and acted accordingly.
He stood athwart mounting global warming hysteria and yelled, "Stop!" He slowed the movement toward a policy blunder of worldwide impact, providing time for facts to catch up with the dubious claims of alarmists. Thanks in part to Bush, the supposed consensus of scientists on global warming has now collapsed. The skeptics, who point to global cooling over the past decade, are now heard loud and clear. And a rational approach to the theory of manmade global warming is possible.
Fred! You sure remember this different than I. What I remember is a President who conceded that global warming was happening, encouraging the chicken little extremists and helping to convince the American people that global warming was a crisis. He simply argued that it was not fair that we carry the burden alone on Kyoto. Maybe this was his way, but it sure left those of us who doubted the logic with the conclusion that Bush was not a friend who could be trusted.
I am also not sure that sabotaging the Republican Party and electing Barack Obama, the key accomplishment of Bush's Presidency, will be viewed long term as the best way to keep the global warming extremists from destroying our free enterprise system with their carbon offset tax punishment. You have seen who Obama is appointing haven't you?
Six of the rest of your list of accomplishments are really just steps in foreign policy and its key component at this time, the war against Islamo-fascism. I don't agree it is credit worthy to break Bush accomplishments down in to a number of tiny steps to claim a longer list. Unless of course you realize that excluding foreign relations and security, Bush did not do much. In which case all you can do is break it down like you did.
That Bush implemented one socialist program intelligently, the Medicare Drug Benefit, does not mean that long term it will not be subverted by Democrats and be a typical socialist disaster. The problem with socialism is that it is never reversed except by revolution. Bush, by his efforts, vastly increased socialism in our nation. I don't think that should be permitted to be called a success until the unintended consequences and socialist subversion efforts have ended, and that will take two generations to evaluate.
I am not a Bush fan. He is going out continuing the same stubborn reaction that he took in crisis after crisis. He has already conceded his final disaster was when he said he did not stick with his "free market" principals during the financial crisis. How did he do this? First he let Democrats blame Republicans for the crisis. He could not respond, he says, because that would be partisan and he did not want that. He conceded a need for panic that made the whole situation worse and shattered the confidence of people just when they needed to be told the opposite by a strong President. He then allowed his own sycophants to persuade him to support the wrong strategy. Next he allowed a bunch of Wall Street frauds to execute it differently than he sold it, without fixing a single cause of the crisis in the process. That last is key. Bush threw a billion dollars at the problem and DID NOT FIX A SINGLE CAUSE OF THE CRISIS! That can only be considered a failure of monumental proportions.
Since I do not want people to think I do not appreciate what he did I want to return for a moment to what Bush did well. In security and foreign affairs, Bush has been a great President. Our relations with India, Israel, Africa, some parts of the Islamic nations, the former Soviet states in Eastern Europe (excluding Russia) and China are better than I would have ever imagined we could have in the current world circumstances, due entirely to programs and policies that Bush and his people are responsible for. It is my fervent prayer that Obama does not mess that up.
On a couple of the other issues in Fred's list Bush has succeeded and has gotten little credit, so they are worth a reminder. In general though, George W. Bush has failed to lead our nation on critical issue after critical issue. I will not be joining Fred to give him high marks. I think Fred is deluding himself about how good a President George W. Bush has been.