With the end of the Bush Presidency come the end of term assessments, and who better to provide a critique of the Bush administration than the folks from the bias free zone at the Powerline? Let’s get right to it:
Bush took office just as a recession was beginning, a recession that could have been made much worse by the September 11 attacks and the subsequent stock market collapse and business contraction. Instead, Bush’s tax cuts gave needed relief to taxpayers and fueled an expansion that lasted almost throughout his terms in office. This is one of several instances where Bush, despite a number of small errors, got the biggest things right.
With his usual ill luck, Bush saw the Fannie/Freddy/house price bubble burst at the tail end of his administration, with the results that we have all seen over the last few months. But Bush deserves little if any blame for the collapse, just as Bill Clinton deserves little if any blame for the stock price bubble, and inevitable collapse, that scarred the last year of his administration. Bush tried to rein in Fannie and Freddy but was blocked by Congressional Democrats. One can argue that, notwithstanding those efforts, he failed to foresee the full impact of the financial tsunami that has now exploded. But so did pretty much everyone else. Except insofar as we view the President as a good luck charm, it makes no sense to blame Bush for those events.
So for the folks at the Powerline, it makes no sense to blame Bush for the addition to the national debt of trillions, trillion dollar deficits, the worst unemployment in decades, and a whole host of other things. It just happened. Mistakes were made. In fact, if you read what he has said again, it makes no sense to blame Bush for the bad things, but he deserves full credit for getting the “big things” right. You just know the foreign policy portion is going to be rich:
In foreign policy, the terrorist attacks dominated, perhaps too much. Few would have predicted on September 12, 2001, that there would be no more successful attacks on American soil or even against American interests abroad, yet that is what happened. As we noted here, President Bush’s strong anti-terrorist policies stopped a long string of successful terrorist attacks that stretched back to the late 1970s. His record in this respect is truly extraordinary, and he deserves an enormous amount of credit for it.
It is too soon to say that President Bush destroyed al Qaeda to the extent that it will not threaten us in the future, but that may well prove to be the case. If so, succeeding Presidents will garner the credit that was sadly denied Bush.
Got it? According to the Powerline, our foreign policy has been so successful under Bush that the main problem is that FUTURE Presidents may unfairly get credit. Delusional does not begin to describe these guys, and this is something to keep in mind the next couple of months when they are screaming that Al Franken is trying to steal an election.
Bush is not, however, without his failings, and even the Powerline concedes that he has some. His biggest flaw? Being too nice to Democrats:
Bush’s great failing was that his focus was almost exclusively on policy, and he was unwilling to pay adequate attention to politics. This failing manifested itself repeatedly throughout his term in office. With hindsight, the beginning of the end for Bush was his unwillingness to defend himself when he was attacked for the “sixteen words” in his State of the Union address–words that were indisputably true. The same thing happened after Hurricane Katrina, the event that got his second term off on the wrong foot. In truth, the federal response to Katrina was both the largest and the fastest response to any natural disaster in world history. Yet Bush was never willing to stand up to his critics and make the case in his own defense.
That tendency to turn the other cheek was, in the end, fatal. Bush never cared much about politics. He was almost contemptuous of political leadership, willing to engage in politics on a sustained basis only in his two successful election campaigns. But he was a politician, and the job of a politician, as President, is to use political skills to lead the American people. Bush’s unwillingness or inability to do what it would take to be an effective political leader, in the end undid his administration.
No one can seriously question President Bush’s character. He did, at all times, what he thought was right for his country. For that he deserves our undying respect. But his political failures, his myopia on some issues and the fact that he was not much of a conservative seriously marred his administration.
Everything considered, I give the Bush administration a B-.