Politics & Media

George W. Bush Wasn't So Bad

We don’t need to wait for history to render judgment on the positive aspects of Bush’s presidency.

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As George W. Bush is leaving the White House, people are already saying he’s among the worst—if not the worst—presidents that the country has seen. History may indeed choose to make the same verdict, but for now let me give a kinder assessment of his eight-year reign. There are four areas in which he was inaccurately blamed for everything that went wrong—the Iraq war, the economy, the energy crisis and the mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina. And there were places where he truly made a positive impact.

As much as I disagree with him about the Iraq war, I cannot hold him as the sole scapegoat. Congress—Democrats included—was complicit in the decisions that led to the war. The same people who were spineless to oppose a popular war called for a cut and run only after the support for that war plummeted in polls. Even though the lies on which the war was based on are despicable, its effect on national security can only be determined in a decade or two. At the very least, if the situation in Iraq continues to improve, we did an overall good thing by helping a people get rid of a tyrant.

Bush was unfairly blamed during the summer as gas prices soared. In the short term, the high oil prices were the result of market forces that are beyond the control of the American president. In the long term, the blame for not having a sound energy policy for the United States goes to every president since Nixon. It doesn’t help a comprehensive energy policy if you blindly oppose all offshore drilling and nuclear plants either. Anyone who cares for the environment would rather do the drilling here in America with measures to avoid oil leaks or spills, rather than have it done in a foreign country whose practices we can’t control.

The main causes behind the mortgage crisis and the credit crunch, meanwhile, include decades of indiscipline, speculation and the resulting over inflation of home prices. It was not George W. Bush who set up Fannie and Freddie and encouraged home ownership even for folks who could not afford it. Bush did not force these people to buy bigger houses than they could afford by lying about their income. He did not force people to ignore the contracts while signing Adjustable Rate Mortgages and then again use any available inflated equity to buy plasma TVs. There was only one policy that could have prevented the catastrophe—responsibility, both personal and corporate.

Bush has also been charged with singlehandedly botching Hurricane Katrina. But he did not design or build the levees that were breached. The Hurricane Contingency plans for the area were formulated by the City of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. The response from FEMA was inadequate because it was something that nobody has even seen or expected before. It did not help that people in the city ignored the mandatory evacuation orders.

I am not going to anoint George W Bush as the finest president ever. But there are a number of things that he has done well. He showed real leadership at a time when the country was the most vulnerable after 9/11. And he has managed to keep the country safe from terrorist attacks thus far. Even as he is detested around the world, there is one whole continent that considers him in a good light. His achievements in the humanitarian aid in Africa is underreported and underappreciated. He has also appointed more minorities and women to high positions in the government than any other president. He tried to bring about a somewhat sensible immigration reform that was gunned down by delusional members of his own party. He helped pass Medicare Part D, much to the chagrin of conservatives, to help millions of low income seniors fill their prescriptions.

After all these efforts, the people who are going to miss him the most are liberals. They will have to finally start owning responsibility for the way the country is being run. They had successfully morphed their “Blame America First” slogan to “Blame Dubya First” and once he is out of the White House, there is only going to be a certain period of time before that goes stale.

DISCUSSION
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 05:40AM
    Another in a long line of Bush apologists (well, maybe not 'apologists' as much as 'forgivists'?). In this article, you are basically rebelling against people who talk in hyperbole ("Bush is the worst president ever"; "Katrina is entirely Bush's fault"; etc.), but in reality most people are more sensible than that. Having said that, there is nothing unfair about George W. Bush receiving the brunt of the criticism in the four areas you have mentioned. He's the commander in chief - he's responsible for the actions of his administration. Yes, Congress gave him the authority to invade Iraq (and they deserve blame for that), but his administration came up with the idea in the first place! I agree with you about his efforts in Africa and his diverse Cabinet. I disagree with the notion that Bush "showed real leadership" after 9/11. In what way did he show real leadership? Was it because he didn't piss his pants and run away? I think the positives of the Bush administration are far outweighed by the four colossal fuck-ups which he either caused or exacerbated through a lack of action. And you're right, there probably will be a lot of people blaming Bush first, just like the Bush administration spent its first term blaming Clinton first.
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    Nov 21, 2008, 06:03AM
    I think Phil provides an excellent "counterpoint" to this piece. Especially about 9/11, I never understand it either. What kind of leadership did he provide by saying he was going to get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive and then spearheaded a war (of which he's commander-in-chief) in Iraq instead, over weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. And since when are we in the tyrant removal business anyway? Having said that, hindsight is 20/20 (just like Mad Dog wine) and I'm just hoping things improve in the next four years.
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    Nov 21, 2008, 07:05AM
    "I have a rock that keeps Tigers away." "How does it work?" "It doesn't work...but I don't see any Tigers do you?" "Lisa, I'd like to buy your rock." I'm sorry, but the whole "has managed to keep the country safe from terrorist attacks thus far" rings somewhat hollow with me. It's not like we were constantly being attacked by terrorists and he put an end to it. Rather, we had to suffer the worst event in American History to be made aware of security lapses that we should have been aware of in the first place. Just as it wasn't any one person's fault, I don't think that any one person deserves credit. Talk about being influenced by a single data point. http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/07/the-dangers-of-n1/
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    Nov 21, 2008, 07:15AM
    Hah. Kudos on the well-placed Simpsons quote.
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    Nov 21, 2008, 08:40AM
    The real problem here is the American public. Few want to recall that for the most part, during his first term, Bush gave the people what they wanted. The U.S. public wanted to strike back at someone for 9/11 and didn't really care who. Saddam was the easiest target. Only when their blood lust was satisfied, did they start to see the error of their ways. Same goes for the economy. Very few were complaining when the credit market was lending to anyone with a pulse. Once again, now that things have gotten ugly, the U.S.public wants to blame someone/anyone, be it Bush, coporate ceo's, anyone but themselves. Do I think Bush was a bad president? Yes. But I think his biggest flaw was in giving the people what they want. P.S. dtdowntown, I second zkauf1's comment.
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    Nov 21, 2008, 10:01AM
    Landlord, I don't disagree about the economy, but I do disagree with you on Iraq. Yes, the people did want retribution after 9/11, but Saddam wasn't the target who was on the public's mind - Osama bin Laden was. Saddam only became the target after the Bush administration continually pushed for war with Iraq. The people wanted the true culprit of 9/11 to see justice, so in that respect Bush never gave the people what they wanted.
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    Nov 21, 2008, 10:42AM
    America’s Leonidas The “immortal” Persians are on the move and Leonidas, King of Sparta, is the man in charge of turning back the murderous horde. Many of the other free nations fail to face the impending doom. Ephalites aids the insatiable Persians, Athens burns. As in Battle of Thermopylae the Persians try to squeeze their illusion of an army through the passage of the twin towers of New York City. “…Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. …Terrorism against our nation will not stand.” President Bush proceeded to dismantle the cowardice, non-uniformed, alleged warriors that hide behind woman and children of Persia. This presidency has had to overcome many hurdles. Before Hurricane Katrina Hit, President Bush Urged A Mandatory Evacuation. Gov. Blanco: "…Just before we walked into this room, President Bush called and told me to share with all of you that he is very concerned about the citizens. He is concerned about the impact that this hurricane would have on our people. And he asked me to please ensure that there would be a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans." Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin left the motors of safe passage parked in the swirling chocolate waters of Katrina. Hint: Federal troops are not allowed to be deployed in the States without consent of the State’s government. The President and his Administration have not only warned of the systemic consequences of failure to reform Government Sponsored Enterprises but also put forward thoughtful plans to reduce the risk presented by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. In fact, Congress rejected President Bush's call more than five years ago to reform the GSEs. Why did congress resist reform? Fannie Mae’s vice-chairman from 1998 to 2003, Jamie Gorelick, was paid $25.6 million. In 2003 alone, Fannie Mae’s CEO, Franklin Raines's compensation was over $20 million. As Barney Frank paraded his male ‘spouse‘ about the halls of Fannie Mae, the President's repeated attempts to reform the supervision of these entities were thwarted by the legislative maneuvering of those who emphatically denied there were problems with the GSEs. The adversarial two party political system is America’s Ephalities. Never before has a President been asked to do so much while being inhibited by an enemy from within his own country. George W. Bush was duly elected President twice by the citizens of the United States. Did that matter to the immature, nanny state seeking socialists who incessantly attacked this President? The envious chirping of these looters demanding private property from anyone more productive than they are is appalling. Their spoiled cries of relief from an ever increasingly complex regulated and legislated world were exploited by an ambulance chasing media. The media, always after the latest sound bite or shock story slant that would hopefully improve their ratings. The more viewers the higher the ratings, the higher the ratings the greater the advertising dollars, the greater advertising dollars the more money for the talking heads. The beat went on while America was trashed. The Matt Lauer’s, Katie Couric’s, and Tom Brokaw’s of the world made millions. Like the Spartan warrior Leonidas, holding back the Persians at Thermopylae, President Bush held fast to his desire to keep Americans safe. As the biased popularity polls show the final score: W 27 Congress 9. Thank you President Bush. With the exception of the outstanding men and women of the U.S. military, you had nothing to work with.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 10:54AM
    "George W. Bush wasn't so bad." Yeah, and neither was the Bubonic Plague!
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    Nov 21, 2008, 11:06AM
    Well done, Leonidas. You effectively made the defense of Bush as dumb as the movie "300."
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 11:16AM
    Dude. Relax. Katrina was not Bush's fault. 9-11 was not Bush's Fault. However, the damn Katrina Report (http://www.whitehouse.gov/reports/katrina-lessons-learned/chapter3.html) shows that local and state politicians were working hard to help prior to federal intervention so get off your high horse. Katrina falls on poor FEMA plans, contingencies and leadership. Sure, blame the two-party system that has dominated our country since its inception. Give me a break. Things that were Bush's fault: 1. Unnecessary War and the associated loss of respect for the US on a global scale 2. Fiscal Irresponsibility 3. Brazen disregard for legitimate environmental concerns
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    Nov 21, 2008, 11:21AM
    There is being erudite, and then there's this. If this is, in fact, just some beautifully bizarre performance art, forgive me. If this is an attempt to actually communicate to an audience of English speakers you don't actually know; dude, the West in 2008 isn't the place you seem to imagine it to be. A precondition for communication might be a shared language and shared set of symbols. Extended metaphor comparing contemporary times to the Persian Wars, complete with second-tier historical figures? Please respond and tell me you are are actually Senator Byrd! I do realize that is comment is about style rather than substance, but forgive me for this as well, since the style is unlike any I have encountered in all my surfing. As for the substance, you have made pretty much the same arguments more colloquial and straight-forward writers have made. A question to you then. Seems to me that a ratings or subscription-based media works in a pretty functional market. If they do distort our perception (a perception that apparently becomes unclouded by a dose of good ole-fashion classical education) isn't it the public that buys it? Do you wish some other mechanism to regulate them? Isn't that just more of the regulated, legislated world that you rail against?
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  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 01:22PM
    Anyway, I did not intend to exonerate Dubya on any of these charges. I only wish to point out that he is not the only one to blame. He could not have caused everything that he is accused of.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 01:49PM
    I agree that Bush is not responsible for every bad thing that occurred on his watch, even though he tried to take credit for any positive economic or other event on his watch. With regard to the Iraq war, I agree with Phil and add that Bush is responsible for the failure of he and his team to read the full National Intelligence Estimate prior to making the decision to invade. With regard to the current credit crisis, he is responsible for telling people to spend after 9/11 and his failure to finance the war and otherwise run up record deficits. People's spending got them individually in credit trouble with the spending being paid for with the home refinancings. The increase in the federal debt and its crowding out available capital for private investment is the 800 pound gorilla that the author failed to mention. While Bush didn't cause hurricane Katrina, he was responsible for the appointment of "Brownie" and the other incompetent people in his administration, whether that was Bremer and the Iraq occupation or keeping Rumsfeld years after it was clear he couldn't handle the occupation assignment.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 01:49PM
    Also, fool you once, shame on him, but fool you twice shame on ya... Liberals also didn't make use of 2004.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 01:58PM
    However, without Bush, I could not have imagined Obama at the helm.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 04:48PM
    Mr. Cheriyathu, You are absolutely RIGHT. "Dubya is OK!" In fact, I'm quitting my "day job," and writing a new book with exactly that title. Check out Publish America in the next couple of weeks! Shalom, "Dan The Writer" (a takeoff on "Joe the Plumber")
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 05:17PM
    Seriously though, he's been the top guy for awhile, in charge of the parade of incompetence which is only surpassed by the mass corruption and innumerable violations of law presented to the world with incredible arrogance, but hey what the heck lets call it even. I just think all this excusing those at the top is really unfair to those they are supposed to serve - they said they could do the job until they said oops this is hard boohoohoo. If it was Wall St we'd owe him a bonus for his horrible 2 terms. W = worst ever! Start paying attention Cheriyathu!
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 21, 2008, 06:52PM
    You have forgotten some of the important changes made by Bush. The S&P is down close to 40% since taking office. Job creation is down about 78% since the Clinton administration was in office. There are two wars going, one that could have been avoided and the other could be going much better if the first was not waged. Bush has been an agent of change and the creator of the need for reversal. We only need to wait for Jan 20, 2009 to evaluate the first two accomplishments. They will be numerical and won't need your brilliant analysis. This is a Republican analysis and therefore seeks someone to blame. If Bush did not want to accept responsibility for the first four years he should not have run for the second. As Harry Truman said "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen." This article is silly and would be better published in a joke book than on a serious site.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 22, 2008, 03:31AM
    What horse manure! With the aid of Cheney making bi-weekly visits to the Bush CIA Building to browbeat them into falsifying assessments to support the case for war, the drumbeat of the MSM you so hate to love, which helped install Bush in power in the first place, adding to that drumbeat for war, and Bush himself making it clear "if you aren't with us, you're against us", the Democrats were supposed to ignore the "evidence" and dig themselves a deeper whole opposing a war the Republicans were going to get us into no matter what? No. Bush got us into this war, and Bush screwed it up. Bush likes to compare himself to Harry Truman. On Harry's Oval Office desk was a daily reminder of his personal philosophy as president, "The Buck Stops Here." With Bush and the Republicans, who talk so much about personal responsibility, the buck always seems to stop anyplace but here. Bush and the Republicans have been on a drumbeat of spend like there's no tomorrow, both in government and encouraging consumers. They opposed efforts to aim Detroit at more efficient vehicles encouraging behemoths on the road. You say we've had no energy policy. Wrong, petro-breath. We had a secret energy policy, literally Cheney's secret energy policy. He brought together all his friends and they sat down and decided energy policy and the Republican Supreme Court let them keep it a secret. Market forces my Aunt Agnes. Market forces were a factor, but so has been the Cheney secret energy policy, meaning the Bush secret energy policy. The buck stops there. Gas guzzling road dinosaurs, high energy prices, spending like drunken sailors, the 20's embraced and revisited wholeheartedly, as though they came out well, because there's nothing to be learned from history, at least if you're a Republican. Katrina. I'm sorry, I forgot it was a Democrat who appointed a crony horse-show executive with absolutely no experience in disaster relief or running a large complex organization to head up FEMA. No, wait, Bush did appoint him! Lots of Republicans got richer, lots of generations long New Orleans families will never be able to return to New Orleans. Mission accomplished. The buck stops here. You left off the list so many things, too numerous to count, but here's a few. What Attorney General appointed by Bush, when there was intelligence that terrorist might be planning to use airliners as missiles, was told the nation's airports might not be secure, responded, "I don't want to hear about it." What President authorized torture, and said we weren't subject to the Geneva Convention? What President called it a "crusade" and told the world, "you're either with us or against us"? What President...oh well, I'm tired, so very tired. Republicans are going to wander in the wilderness a long time, because Republicans are incapable of accepting responsibility for their errors, and this time, they are massive. Some do, some start to, but just like you, most are incapable. Forgiveness, whether it be from God, in 12 step programs, or the electorate, first requires accepting responsibility. Until Republicans can do that, they won't even have started the process.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 22, 2008, 06:24AM
    I think of criticism of this article is misplaced. The author, who wrote a previous piece on Splice saying why he was voting for Obama, even as pro-lifer, is simply reacting to the virulent hatred of Bush. Bush won't be regarded as a great president--although it depends on future historians, who will probably take a more even-handed approach--but something to remember is that Bush was the first YouTube and Internet president. Yes, Clinton had a taste of it, too, especially with Drudge, but it was Bush who was in office when the blogosphere and net exploded with political commentary and videos. How will Obama fare under this microscope? Better, obviously, at first, but let's see in a couple of years. Imagine how Carter or Nixon would've fared in the new media, to say nothing of JFK, who probably wouldn't have been able to even run for president, given his undisclosed illnesses, his father's grubby fund-raising, and his own flagrant womanizing.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 22, 2008, 06:59AM
    "George W. Bush was duly elected President twice by the citizens of the United States." Um, no. He was elected by the citizens only once--the second time. The first time he was elevated to the presidency by a system that was designed to inhibit mobocracy (or should one shoehorn in "hoi polloi" to please Leonidas?). Which brings us to Landlord's justification. The USA is a republic; the President is not supposed to give the American people what they want (hmm, our Founders sound a lot like Nanny Statists). The President is supposed to uphold the Constitution and do what is best for the country. I would say that on both of these counts, Bush has failed miserably. As for Katrina, of course it's not his fault. Not only did he not design and build the levees, etc., but he doesn't control the wind and the rain. Obviously, it's God's fault.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 22, 2008, 09:48AM
    The election's over, thank God. Can we get back to reality, please, forget about Bush, wish Obama luck at home and abroad, and try and push our lame Congress into doing something meaningful about the economy?
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 22, 2008, 11:37AM
    "After all these efforts, the people who are going to miss him the most are liberals. They will have to finally start owning responsibility for the way the country is being run." This is the part I like best. The author spends the entire article excusing the incompetence of this whole administration, apportioning blame to everyone else in the hope that maybe some of it might land somewhere other than squarely where it belongs, and at the same time giving Bush sole credit for the few things where he and his cronies didn't completely screw the pooch or where his hand was forced. But LIBERALS are the ones who will finally have to start owning responsibility for the way the country is run. I guess I must have blinked and missed that fleeting moment when conservatives accepted any responsibility for anything. I realize that irony is a concept that conservatives don't understand, but it's in the dictionary. After six years of conservative policy that turned everything it touched from gold into straw and two more years of Republican obstructionism that have resulted in massive death and destruction, a ten trillion dollar national debt, a clown face on the national stage, torture, concentration camps, illegal surveillance, energy policy designed by energy executives, environmental policy designed by polluters, an exhausted military and now economic collapse, who is it that's going to have to start owning responsibility for the way the country is run? Why, liberals, of course. I can't believe that conservatives wouldn't be embarrassed to their core if they understood how thoroughly transparent they are. Stop me before I kill again; and if you don't stop me, then any atrocity I commit is your responsibility because you didn't stop me in time. The day conservatives accept any responsibility for anything they do is the day I'll start believing in unicorns and leprechauns. In the meantime, I have no problem with accepting responsibility for trying to clean up everything conservatives have spent the last eight years fouling with their filthy, perverse, degenerate habits. Somebody has to do it, and as the author demonstrates, the children who created the mess aren't going to help.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 22, 2008, 02:07PM
    Thank you Timothy. The aim of the article is not to exonerate Bush in any way. But rather to point out that many of these issues are caused by decades of wrong policies. Yes, I am an ardent supporter of Obama, but I wish him not to make the same mistakes. The ones even Bill Clinton made. Yes, Bush failed miserably, but to put all blame on him and go ahead with what we (read govt.) has been doing all the time is delusional.
  • Go to comment.
    Nov 26, 2008, 04:30AM
    http://howobamagotelected.com/
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