January 18, 2009
The Bush LegacyBy Yomin Postelnik
It is a great disservice to any person to sum up the totality of one's career in a few short words, using mere sound bites as a pretext to label it either a tremendous success or an abject failure. This is especially true of our presidents. Writing about the legacy of any president must, almost by definition, be an exercise in contrasts. One can find errors in the decisions of President Washington. By the same token, good intentions have frequently propelled the actions of our worst presidents, and even the worst of this group can be credited with accomplishments that have benefited society for years, if not decades, to come.
An honest study of President Bush shows him to have, in many respects, led the nation in a brilliant manner. At the same time, like all presidents before him, he has ignored key issues that were not the center of his platform (though they remain important just the same and leaving them unresolved makes for problems in the future). But perhaps most importantly, the steps that President Bush took to keep this nation safe came from a unique mixture of good judgment with profound attention to detail and to the lessons of modern history.
In the false and childish worldview of the media, the coverage of any individual must boil down to either glorious adulation or backbiting vilification. That such a perspective is more superficial than the thought process of a parakeet is of no importance to today's conveyers of information. Discounting years of track record and summing up a leader's entire deeds (or years of a nation's history) to 30 second sound bites is what sells. Such coverage is to idle minds what slop is to the stomachs of pigs: A gigantic, festering mess devoid of any real substance that is taken down with gusto by those who partake in it, but that compels those who know better to repulse in disgust.
The media likes to portray the making of crucial decisions as either a shining moment of brilliance or as a random act of naivety, if not the impulses of evil. In reality, all major presidential decisions are made after intense consultation with a wide range of experts. On any given issue, the length of debate and the aspects of it that are analyzed can fill volumes. Yet one would not know that by the coverage provided by today's media, coverage that substitutes inane mantras for logic and reasoning. These mantras are then held up as de facto common wisdom by much of the public, a large segment of society at refuses to think, question or even remember the course of events that had taken place only a few short years ago.
Common wisdom that is shaped by today's shallow media is as worthless as it is false. Its broad acceptance is a tremendous disservice to the nation. Leaders deserve better, the American public deserves better and honesty demands better. It is with that in mind that we must take a real look at the Bush Presidency, its great successes and its failures, those two characteristics that have been a part of every administration in the history of the United States of America.
Timeline of the Bush Presidency
The dawn of the Bush Presidency brought with it signals of caution to America's international adversaries. In the opening months of the Bush Presidency a standoff with China over their detention of 24 Americans on Hainan Island threatened to explode into a mammoth sized crisis.
The event was noteworthy. The President's swift and brilliant handling of this crisis is the reason why almost no one remembers it today. At the time, it was the highlight of the 24/7 news cycle, with open talk about the dawn of a Cold War style relationship with China.
Perhaps the greatest example of the renewed competence exuded by the new administration in dealing with the Chinese block was exemplified in 2002, when the Bush Administration uncovered that the 1994 promises by North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions had been false. These promises had been garnered from Kim Jong-Il when then President Bill Clinton sent the illustrious Jimmy Carter to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear ambitions. In true "Peace in Our Time" fashion, the lone duo of Democratic presidents accepted Kim's promises and left it at that. President Bush restored America's reputation as a nation that cannot be lied to, at least not that easily.
The signals sent had repercussions. Much as during the Reagan era, when the spread of America's vision helped topple the Communist Bloc and spread the fight for religious freedom and human rights across the globe, the actions of the Bush Administration had a similarly profound impact on human rights.
Take the above examples dealing only with the Chinese sphere of influence. The President's strong commitment to the protection of free republics helped ensure the safety of Taiwan. The Chinese knew that the era of empty rhetoric as a substitute for foreign policy was over. When the new administration made a commitment, they would deliver.
During the opening years of the Bush Administration, much was accomplished on the domestic front as well. When candidate Bush promised 1.3 trillion in tax cuts, the pundits balked. Their laughter came from their very grounded expectation that Congress to block anything coming close to that number. And who could blame them? President Clinton had promised a middle tax cut, only to announce that the deficit demanded an across the board tax hike and President G. H. W. Bush had been convinced by Congress in 1990 that his "no new taxes" pledge did not mean that existing taxes couldn't be raised. Even President Reagan had to temper tax cuts with some tax increases. So when the new President proposed 1.6 trillion in tax cuts, giving him room to negotiate and still ensure passage of his election promise of 1.3 (and in fact ended up getting a 1.35 trillion dollar cut) the media had every reason to be surprised.
What was the end result of those tax cuts? Well, in late 2000 it became clear that the country was in a recession. When then President-elect Bush mentioned this fact Democrat leaders accused him of "talking down the economy." But he was doing quite the opposite. The soon-to-be president was pointing out a problem that needed to be addressed and, in so doing, was building a case for real economic stimulus to be enacted. The end result was that despite the loss of millions of jobs resulting from the tech bust, coupled with the loss of two million jobs on 9/11, the US economy picked up dramatically and America gained back all of those jobs and more within a span of three years. Indeed, it is astounding that President Clinton was heralded as an economic champion in 1996 for having brought unemployment levels down to 5.6% in one term but scarcely a word was mentioned in 2004 when unemployment fell to the same level under President Bush. And as the national unemployment rate declined further into the fours, media coverage declined in equal proportions.
Cutting taxes was not the only area in which President Bush confounded the naysayers of media punditry. Pressing for education reform, the new President was able to push through the No Child Left Behind Act with the bipartisan support of Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Critics argued that government mandated testing is not an end all to the education problem. But such critics generally fail to acknowledge that states, local governments and school boards are more in tune to the educational needs of their populations than a federal government with a one size fits all solution. The act did enough to ensure that children would graduate literate and with basic math skills. And while it is most certainly true that there are other areas that need improvement, this does not detract from the fact that President Bush's bill was a needed measure that no previous administration had been able to accomplish.
Bringing together people from both sides of the isle to enact needed reform was a hallmark of Bush's governorship. Specifically with regard to education, President Bush has been a strong advocate throughout his career. Even Bush critics like Molly Ivins, author of "Shrub," saw fit to highlight that then Gov. Bush was sincerely devoted when it came to the issue of education reform.
There are other measures that President Bush should receive universal credit for, from both the right and the left. Among them is that in the aftermath of September 11th, the President sought to inspire individuals to sign up for volunteer service. He did not overreach. The President understood that for volunteerism to be effective it must stem from the individual's free will and be tailored to fit his or her specific interests.
Similarly, the President's harshest critics would ordinarily have praised his $15 billion initiative to fight AIDS in Africa, a pledge that doubled that of the previous administration. Years later, the President would go even farther, allocating exponentially more to combat this continental catastrophe.
And the left, as well as many on the right, would agree that President Bush's prescription drug coverage for seniors was needed in the face of rising drug costs and the availability of new and innovative treatments. Yet those on the left rarely see fit to acknowledge this effort, passed by President Bush only after a great political struggle and a feat that no previous administration had been able to achieve before.
Critics derided the President over his decision to limit funding on embryonic stem cell research to existing lines, those being embryos that had already been dissected for this purpose. But when the facts are brought to the table these critics look foolish, petty and, from a truly scientific standpoint, cavalier.
To start with, one fact, a fact that is generally unknown, needs to be brought to the forefront. President Bush was the first president to fund stem cell research, period. President Clinton had recognized the ethical issues involved and had refused to render a decision on the matter.
The decision reached by President Bush was a leader's decision in the fullest sense of the word. Potential life that had already been destroyed may as well be put to good use, but further destruction of potential life would not receive federal funding. And the issue, when examined properly, shows even more reason why President Bush was right to refuse blanket funding for this project.
Many scientific inroads have been made using adult stem cells. There is no ethical issue in using them, other than issues related to human cloning and those factors are agreeably less important than the need to explore life saving potentials. But at the same time, doctors have known of embryonic stem cells since the 1950s and even now, with increased technology and with the human genome map, these cells are too small to utilize. Any experiment conducted with them has met with disaster and many commentators rightly pointed out the lack of private funding for any endeavors involving embryonic stem cells is the best indicator of the lack of promise that they hold (for if they were of any use or value private funding would have been in abundance, with federal funding being nothing more than icing on the cake).
Furthermore, any last arguments in favor of embryonic stem cells, such as their pliability, have been rendered moot by the fact that scientists are now able to harvest amniotic stem cells, which are even more in their primary and undeveloped state than embryonic ones and involve no destruction of potential life. Lastly, what's even more noticeably missing from the public discussion is that President Bush did not ban embryonic stem cells (he's actually the first president to fund those too), he just limited federal funding to the existing lines that were already dissected.
One other occurrence of note happened on the domestic front in the early years of the Bush Administration. In 2002, the Bush Administration sounded the alarm about irregularities in the mortgage industry. They were stopped from taking action by Congress.
While they were later shown to be correct (and blamed for lack of follow through), in reality, they had few options at the time. Had the administration pressed the issue, opponents, and even members of their own party, would have accused the administration of curbing the dream of homeownership, most profoundly impacting minorities and low income people during a period of almost unprecedented real estate growth. Any attempt to bring balance to the real estate market would have been vilified as the epitome of cruelty.
At the same time, the Bush Administration was able to do something about the inevitable bust. Unlike with the tech boom, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan wasted no time in alerting the public to the inevitable real estate collapse. Anyone who listened to the news knew that it was coming. (They just hoped that the market would rebound shortly thereafter, a speculation that was fueled by TV comparisons to previous real estate downturns. Such non-sequiturial spin was the work of the media. The Fed drew no such analogies and was warning of a serious problem.)
The War on Terror and Iraq
And so we come to the seminal issues of George W. Bush's presidency, the War on Terror and defense of the homeland. Looking back at the aftermath of 9/11, it now seems natural that we fought a war against the Taliban, improved homeland security measures and were rewarded with years of relative security. Common wisdom is that any president would have pursued the same course. But in reality, such common wisdom cannot be farther from the truth.
Previous administrations always treated acts of terror as the lone workings of a group of criminals. They fought against them in much the same way. Based on the government reaction to the first World Trade Center bombing, the terror attacks on the Kobar Towers and on the USS Cole, it is most probable that were it not for the Bush administration, 9/11 would have been prosecuted in a similar manner.
After all, the same logic that pointed to the Taliban as the arch-enemy that provided safe haven and training grounds for al-Qaeda could have just as easily made the case that the Taliban were not themselves involved in the attack. A line of reasoning could have arisen that America needed to negotiate with the Taliban for the transfer of al-Qaeda criminals. After all, the attacks were perpetrated by Saudis, not Afghanis. In fact, if the previous handling of terror attacks does not make the case, let the argument of the far left that we did nothing to Saudi Arabia serve as an indicator of what their preferred course of action would have been.
Such a mistake would have been deadly. It would have shown us to have no understanding of the origins of the attacks, thereby emboldening the "undiscovered" enemy to continue. The cells that performed the attacks were indeed Saudi, but they were al-Qaeda trained. What's more, they hated the Saudi government but felt great kinship with the Taliban regime. Not acting against the real state perpetrators would have been deadly. Thankfully, the administration handled the situation correctly.
President Bush also revamped the nation's entire security system. Like our Afghan mission, the TSA and our revamping of airport security may seem natural, but it was not. A lesser administration would not have known how to act. Indeed, the fact that according to Sen. John Kerry (Interview with Larry King, 07/08/04), he, Sens. Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer sat in silent shock for 40 minutes on 9/11 would be an indicator of less decisive leadership across the board. It is even more doubtful that another administration would have torn down the wall of separation between the CIA and the FBI that was established in the 1990s, a move that allowed domestic security forces access to foreign intel on attacks planned on US soil.
The consequences of failure to respond properly to terror can be seen by the precipitous escalation of attacks that preceded 9/11. When we treated the first Trade Center attack and other acts of terror as lone criminal actions, terrorists were emboldened to strike further. After all, they were on the winning end of the casualty equation. On 9/11, the new president sent them a message: Attack us and lose your state sponsors. The terrorists got the message. Attacks dwindled.
The fact that there has been no attack on American soil since is nothing short of a miracle. After all, it takes only one madman to wreak havoc. But the revamping of intelligence and the message that attacks will result in the taking out of state sponsors had a lot to do with deterring the violence that inevitably escalates if no response is given.
At the time, the actions of President Bush were almost universally seen as a sorely needed and welcome change to the era of apathy that had been the hallmark of American response, at least to some extent, for decades prior. At the time, the President's approval ratings reached 90%.
Revisionists later sought to make fun of the President for having sat still in a classroom for seven minutes after the attack. For so doing, it is they who are naïve. The country was under attack, the President's location at the time was well known and he was a prime target. Had he left the classroom there was every possibility that a gunman was planted just outside, a result that would have dealt a deathblow to the morale of an already grief-stricken nation. The calm and collectedness that the President displayed during those minutes showed his leadership and resolve, not the opposite.
The same critics, who largely supported John Kerry just four years later, also appear hypocritical. And Kerry himself, in an Aug. 5, 2004 press conference, criticized the President for having waited those seven minutes, saying that he would have left the classroom instead. This was less than a month after his admission of having been in shock for 40 minutes at the time. His assertion went unchallenged by the media.
In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush proceeded to execute a brilliantly fought war with Afghanistan, pushing the Taliban to the sidelines of the country within weeks. Because we hear nothing of it, we assume that the operation was easy and that no credit is due. The truth is far different. Afghanistan was actually a complicated quagmire, far more so than the oft touted Iraq.
The Afghanis are a fiercely independent people. During the Soviet invasion, children younger than six years of age came out and met soldiers with rifles (which they knew how to use). The Soviets also lost by not knowing the terrain on which they were fighting; freezing hills that only the locals knew how to navigate.
President Bush learned the lessons of recent history. Our mission was to train and collaborate with supportive Afghani fighters who at least shared our disdain for the terrorists and their Taliban enablers. Following this strategy, we were remarkably successful. Any other strategy would have been doomed to failure.
Which brings us to yet another statement by the indefatigable John Kerry; his promise that if he had been president at the time he would have surrounded Bin Laden with American troops and not left the mission to Afghanis. Such a move would have painted us as invaders and rendered our troops target practice for six year olds.
Was the President's implementation of the War on Terror perfect in every way? No. I believe that some of the privacy measures enacted in the aftermath of 9/11 are open to being abused. I hope that some are eventually repealed. But what is certain is that few presidents would have revamped our security system as quickly and as efficiently as did President Bush. In other words, few presidents would have been as successful in staving off other attacks.
The President then took the War on Terror to Iraq. Some liberals were initially supportive, though for secondary reasons such as nation building. Few, if any, paid attention to the security aspect of this operation.
Critics yelled that out of Iran, North Korea and Iraq, Iraq was the least dangerous of the three. In doing so they showed their ignorance in matters of security. Yes, Iraq had the least in terms of weapons (though, in 1991, Saddam had the forth largest army in the world and UN weapons reports documented that far fewer weapons were destroyed than were not), but the threat that Iraq posed was entirely different from that of the others.
Iran and North Korea are in a strategic battle against the West. Their plans are long term. They will not attack unless they believe that they are ready to do so. Only Saddam was content with inflicting as much damage as possible without regard for the consequences. Anyone who thinks otherwise need only ask themselves what he was thinking by trying to assassinate a former US president.
As such, the threat posed by Saddam was immediate and dangerous. Any dictator who is content at taking pot shots against a stronger nation, without regard for the consequences, is a threat to the world. By the mildest of accounts, Saddam's regime murdered hundreds of thousands of people and unleashed chemical weapons on innocent civilians. He also had no fear of reprisal from America. In short, those who look to nukes as being the only reason to get rid of Saddam are oblivious to the danger that he posed. Nothing was stopping him from giving a suitcase full of chemical weapons to a terrorist bent on entering America.
Moreover, we knew how many weapons Saddam had in 1991 and we knew how many were he'd destroyed since. That most of the leftovers were hidden underground or shipped to his allied countries does not mean that they could not have been recalled at a moment's notice. And that's leaving out mention of the 550 tons of diluted uranium that could have been reconstituted with either centrifuges or by using more arcane methods should centrifuges not have been available. The greatest threat that Saddam posed was his penchant for hitting his enemies without regard for the consequences. He was a madman who had targeted a former US president, who had used chemical weapons against civilians and who had sent checks to the families of suicide bombers in other countries. That was a risk we could not afford to take.
Aside from the above, there was a profound humanitarian reason for the Iraq invasion. Aside from the hundreds and thousands or more who were murdered throughout Saddam's reign, the western response before the war was a humanitarian problem in and of itself. Sanctions had been employed by the UN in an attempt to force Saddam to comply with weapons inspections. The sanctions had no affect on Saddam. They did, however, result in the tragic starvation of Iraqi citizens (while also allowing prominent UN officials to profit from what became known as the Oil for Food Scandal).
In the weeks after 9/11, I had an opportunity to converse with several Iranian immigrants. While Iranians are Persian, not Arabic, and are certainly no lovers of Saddam, they came from the region in question and their views were not unlike the many Iraqis who privately told the American "human shield" protesters to go home in the months leading up to Saddam's overthrow. The complaints they raised against America were that a) America had helped Afghanistan get rid of the Soviets and then left it to fend for itself and that b) America was responsible for the sanctions against Iraq which only hurt civilians. They felt strongly that American should have instead gotten rid of Saddam.
I disagree with the first part of their complaint, to an extent. America had no moral obligation to rebuild the Afghanistan that the Soviets destroyed. They should have pressured Russia to assist in this effort. But the result of leaving Afghanistan to fend for itself, in actuality, was that the land became a stronghold for terrorists, culminating in 9/11. With regard to the Iraqi sanctions, they are 100% right to denounce them. The only issue I would have with what they said is that America did not initiate those sanctions. They were the work of the UN. It also needs to be mentioned that in the months before 9/11 the new administration was considering making an appeal to drop or curtail the sanctions. Toppling Saddam was far more humane and of greater necessity.
In toppling Saddam, the President first gave the Iraqi regime 18 months of continuous warning, a time period the left refers to as a "rush to war." And when war finally broke out, the opposition became absurd.
To recap a few of their finer points, the president was denounced for having entered Iraq (which posed a security threat to Americans) without an exit strategy. These same critics then demanded that we send troops into Rwanda to engage in a civil war with no exit strategy (this is not meant to minimize the importance of doing whatever we can to stop the travesty in Rwanda, but entering into the civil strife would have done little to curb the bloodshed and would most certainly have endangered our men and women in the process).
The left went so far as to blame President Bush for terrorism, saying that his actions (against terrorist state sponsors) were causing others to be recruited to the cause. Yes, when a country responds to an enemy that attacked it, that enemy will rally all of its supporters to war. Yet the rallying cry of the terrorists would be far greater had we continued to sit back and do nothing. Eventually such apathy would have led many more on the other side to join against us in what would have been little more than a cakewalk. Our fight against Soviet dominance provoked their ire as well. But doing nothing would have easily allowed them to achieve their goals.
The media, for their part, helped the left along. If the death of every soldier killed in World War 2 had been featured on the news, complete with a recap of their life story, while no one in the media bothered to remind the viewer of the reasons why we went to war, much of the nation would have been salivating against FDR. And so the media perfected their mastery of its own war against Bush. It is to the credit of the American people that so many did not fall for it.
The media has also written a narrative in which we would have lost the war were it not for the surge. Part of this narrative depicts a blundering president who failed to commit the needed number of troops in the first place. Yet this depiction, like so many others by the media, has no basis in reality. As with Afghanistan (though on a lesser scale), we needed to ensure that we were not seen as conquerors. Our mission in rebuilding Iraq was to assist the Iraqi military and its police forces.
Considering the above, it was extremely hard to determine the proper number of troops. Too many would invite havoc, while too few would make the mission harder. The surge did work, at least in the short term, but the administration's initial numbers were not without reason. In fact, over the long run, those numbers may well have been the smoothest method of securing the peace.
Others argued that we should have entered Iraq, vanquished Saddam and left. The President was smarter. He knew what had happened to Afghanistan after the Russians left in the 1980s. As outlined above, little time had passed before terrorist training camps set up in the no-man's-land that followed. He did not wish for a repeat of this phenomenon in Iraq.
Other, more thoughtful opposition, was substantiated at least somewhat by reason. In particular, the argument over the Dubai ports deal was an interesting one. To the critics, the President was risking our national security. But to the Administration, the Dubai deal actually enhanced America's security by solidifying the cooperation and support of a nation that was more or less an ally of the United States. I believe that the President should have erred on the side of caution, but his position did not deserve the blatant scorn that it received either.
But missing from the entire media narrative is the true story of the Middle East. The region is still ablaze with problems. But the actions of President Bush brought human rights and individual safety to many millions of people. His actions also brought with them education, infrastructure and opportunity.
Likewise, one other factor must be pointed out in President Bush's handling of the War on Terror. His decisive action put a nation at ease. In the aftermath of 9/11, there were select incidents of violence against Arab-Americans. President Bush used his leadership to rightly call those acts despicable and to point out the difference between the terrorists and between our fellow citizens. A waffler would not have been able to bring peace and stability to the nation. President Bush's words inspired and brought with them much good.
The media story goes on. In 2005, a number of hurricanes hit the Southeast and the Gulf Region. Before Katrina, the media raised the specter that these storms were due to global warming (without a shred of evidence and in direct contrast to the opinions of most scientists - which is a problem when you claim to be reporting the views of science). A British study had shown that the earth had actually entered a cooling period in 1998. But none of that had any consequence. The far left Air America crowd even raised the possibility that the President was "seeding hurricane clouds." The "mainstream" media was content at merely insinuating that global warming caused the hurricanes and that President Bush had caused global warming.
And then came Katrina. It did reveal a flaw in the federal government. Had Congress acted 10 years before to fortify the levees there likely still wouldn't have been enough time to fix them. But that failure was across the board and speaks to the broader problem of politicians not being in touch with the needs of the people. It is the duty of local congressmen to bring to the forefront issues that are of vital importance to their region. And while leaders of nations should familiarize themselves with local threats as well, the fact is that presidents busy themselves primarily with issues that affect the nation as a whole. The threat to Louisiana went ignored for decades, not just by this administration, but by the ones that preceded it as well. During that time, a congressman could have, and should have, raised the rallying cry.
Still, the federal response to Katrina was far from the fiasco that the media made it out to be. In fact, even with Governor Kathleen Blanco demanding that FEMA wait 48 hours before coming in, and even with rescue planes being shot at by looters upon arrival, the federal response to Katrina was still the fastest federal response to a hurricane ever.
Then Governor Blanco deserves the lion's share of the blame. The White House had wanted to send in assistance immediately. Michael Brown, the only former Deputy Director of FEMA (and General Counsel before that) to become the agency's Director, sought to countermand the Governor's request. Yet because he conducted a series of tired interviews after working on the crisis for days on end, he was portrayed by the media as nothing more than a horse trader (the media using the same journalistic standards that would have a secretary of state introduced as a stamp collector because that happened to be one of his or her hobbies).
In his handling of the crisis, the President does seem to have made one mistake. He apologized when he should have laid blame where it belonged. Apologies worked for President Clinton. But the media had been out to get President Bush for years and when the chance came they pounced. They haven't let up since. Yet perhaps the grace and the decency that President Bush displayed will be more effective in the long run than had he rightly lashed out at his critics for having politicized a natural disaster.
In any case, Louisiana knew the truth. Support for the President stayed strong. By contrast, support for the Democratic Governor fell into the 20s. Blanco didn't bother to seek reelection.
The handling of Katrina points to a bigger problem with the Bush presidency. The President is often loath to take on the media or to call a spade a spade. In the short term, this reluctance helped devastate his public opinion ratings (though before Katrina, a large amount of media smears went ignored). In the long run, however, his steadfastness and the actions of his administration will speak louder than words. In fact, as with Katrina, the argument can be made that by letting the media have its day and by not engaging with them on a constant basis, the amount of hatred and distorted coverage was curbed. Fighting the media head on would have escalated the battle. Their ramblings may well fall apart far more quickly having gone without response.
It also must be noted that there were several great attempts by the President to reach out to the public. The media blocked them entirely. One example that comes to mind was the White House speech of Sept. 6, 2006. In it, the President spent over 40 minutes detailing the successes of an intelligence gathering operation. He pointed out specifically how attack after attack had been thwarted. He also announced that a number of the terrorists were now being transferred from their undisclosed location after much important intel was gleaned.
The media refused to report on any of this and instead called the speech an admission of secret prisons (which were hardly a secret - and that was not even remotely the point of the press conference). The media then portrayed hard fought success as abject failure by asking "now that the terrorists are being transferred, has the well of information dried up?" The fact that the program was a success and those transferred were only the first link of what was becoming a long line of very useful intel was of no interest and would not be mentioned to the public.
But whatever the case, the lack of jockeying with the media does not take away from the actions of this president. Nor does it take away from the measures that his administration took to protect this nation from terror, or from the tax cuts that helped lead us out of a recession, ushering in over five years of unprecedented growth not just for the wealthy, but first and foremost for the middle class. Nor does this refusal to take on the media take away from the unprecedented humanitarian endeavors undertaken by this administration in places such as Africa, or from any other of the achievements of this administration. All in all, a true look at the performance of this administration will stand in stark contrast to portrayal of the media and of its talking heads. In the end, facts will trump fiction and results will trump partisan spin.
This much must also be said: Whether you agree with President George W. Bush or not, he, much like Reagan, has been one of the most forthright and open presidents in recent history. On any issue, the American public has always known where he stands and he has always fought to accomplish precisely what he has previously pledged to do.
This consistency has shown itself across the board. It may stand in stark contrast from the screaming mantras of his opponents, but the truth is often much different than the background noise of hecklers. As if to prove him right, even those who shout the loudest in opposition are hard pressed to offer up any example in which President Bush did not set out to do exactly what he promised. Their real problem is that what he believes in is not to their liking. They should be honest enough to admit the same.
The Failures That Were
And yet, the Bush Administration, like all others before it, has had its series of failures. In the long run, the most harmful ones are often those that go unnoticed at the time.
Such seems to be the case with the Bush Administration. For decades, the criminal justice system has sought longer incarcerations. Such a system breeds boredom, hopelessness and anger. In recent years, such a system has also allowed radical Muslim prisoners to recruit dejected prisoners who have been sentenced to arcane terms for crimes that posed no risk to society. America must move toward a system of manual labor as opposed to incarceration, a system that is far more humane and one that study after study has shown to curb recidivism. Labor tasks would result in shorter but more durable lessons and in actual rehabilitation. And if those who run prisons are given labor contracts to manage instead, they will benefit from the changes as well. In short, labor instead of prison benefits all parties involved and is extremely needed, especially in light of the threat of radical Islam. It also makes for a better society overall.
Another failure is quite possibly the extent of the economic bailout, but at present, we cannot be sure. Failure to counter a media that incites hatred and tries to awaken the worst emotions in the public is yet another problem that needs to be addressed.
Furthermore, the slide into societal immorality seems to be at the root of many of these problems. The public needs to be inspired to embrace their better qualities instead of chasing after base pleasures and leaders need to spread this message repeatedly. Any administration must tackle this problem head on by inspiring individuals and families to simply do better.
These failures are serious, albeit not unique to the Bush Administration. They need to be addressed, whether in parting or by future leaders. But let us also give credit where credit is due. President Bush helped keep the nation safe and steered world opinion in some very positive directions. He is without a doubt one of the most important presidents in this nation's history.
As we go forward we must learn from both the successes and the failures of this administration, building upon the former and rectifying the latter. As we do so, let us not forget the many good and inspiring lessons that President Bush has taught both the world and many in this nation. As we go forward, let us rectify that which has not yet been mended while building upon those successes that have been handed to us. And as we do so, let us bear in mind the words of President George W. Bush, "history moves in the direction of justice."