Bush’s Legacy

February 9, 2009

George W. Bush may have vacated the White House, but his stamp on America still remains. His legacy, only a month after his departure, is being hotly debated by historians and pundits alike. Although few would consider former President Bush among the likes of Ronald Reagan or FDR, I believe the man deserves some credit along with all the criticism.

To be fair, 20/20 hindsight gives us the ability to see the obvious missteps made by the 43rd President of the United States. His abysmal approval ratings, which were at 27 percent upon his departure, are easily the product of a mishandling of the war in Iraq, the precipitous economic downturn, which occurred during his last days in office, and more than a few stumbles that will not be looked upon favorably by historians.

However, what plagues the Bush legacy is that it is difficult to discern the effectiveness of many of President Bush’s decisions until many years, even decades from now. His successes are more ambiguous, while his failures are seemingly apparent. It is easy to point to the Iraq war in its current state as a failure, or at least beneath what was promised to the American and Iraqi people. It is easy to observe the crumbling economy and point an accusing finger to the man who let it happen under his watch. The delayed response to Hurricane Katrina along with the soaring national debt is easy to spot as less than satisfactory outcomes from the commander-in-chief.

Still, it is important to note we have not suffered a major terrorist attack since 9/11, this itself being a perfect example of the difficulty of judging President Bush’s effectiveness. Had we been attacked, Bush’s detractors would have jumped to claim that all the counterterrorism measures have made us less safe as a country. However, every month that we evaded a serious threat, it appeared to many that the “so-called war on terror” was nothing more than a trumped up and unnecessary endeavor.

Should the Iraq war lead to a stable democracy in the Middle East, historians may see President Bush in a better light. If Iraq and Afghanistan become breeding grounds, not for terrorism but for democracy and peace, the enormous blood and treasure spent may appear to be a more worthy investment. Ironically, the future of America’s success in the Middle East now rests squarely on the shoulders of Bush’s successor, Barack Obama.

While the attention on the United States’ presence in Iraq often remains the central focus, the humanitarian presence across the world is overlooked. During his eight years in office, George Bush nearly tripled the amount of humanitarian aid sent to Africa, as well as pledged $15 billion dollars over 5 years to fight the HIV epidemic there.

Was George W. Bush one of the greatest presidents our nation has seen? No, and I doubt he will be considered as such even after a full view of his presidency, but he is certainly not “a war criminal” as the enlightened Rosie O’Donnell claims. What will the outcome of Bush’s eight years in office be? Only time and a legion of political commentators will tell.


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