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January 19, 2009

President Bush Deserves Our Praise, Not Just History’s


For the partisan crowds and the media hordes that made it their lives’ mission to ravage President George W. Bush’s reputation starting even before his first inauguration – evidently because he beat Al Gore by a thin margin –  the chorus has not and will never change: George W. Bush was an awful president, if not the worst we ever had.


For the rest of us, the assessment has been a reasonable mix. Some are genuinely dissatisfied with Bush’s performance, and others will predictably defend him to the virtual death. Too many, however, are leaving it to history, their rationale being that even though they cannot demonstrate Bush’s successes, history might be able to.


I started out as a supporter of President Bush. I am most certainly not one to defend him blindly, because he has, over the years, done much to push small-government conservatives such as myself far from him. Yet after eight years, I cannot hide by leaving Bush’s assessment to history. He deserves our evaluation today – and the result can only be our thanks and praise to a fine president.


First, it is worth examining the reasons why Bush fell short of being an exceptional president. His failed experiment with “comprehensive” immigration reform is a prime factor for most Americans. But most severe was Bush’s continued enlargement of the federal government. This includes his unjustifiable increases in spending and the more recent bailout mammoths. His move to pay for the United Auto Workers’ own greed with our money, even after congressional rejection of the same, was nothing short of shameful. His proclamation that “I’ve abandoned free market principles in order to save the free market system” was incomprehensible.


Greatly damaging as well was Bush’s refusal to defend himself in an effective manner. It was clear at the outset that the left and the media were never going to give him a chance – and they didn’t. Yet he was thoroughly ineffectual at explaining the urgency of the war on terror and the necessity of spreading democracy in the lands that breed Islamic extremism, even though he clearly understood both quite well. Even in the face of the most vitriolic, scathing and false attacks from top-ranking Democrats on Iraq, Katrina and imagined scandals, Bush thought it either unnecessary or futile to defend himself. Unsurprisingly, his refusal to effectively defend himself disincentivized his supporters from ardently protecting his reputation as well.


Bush’s mistakes, however, were far outweighed by his worthy accomplishments. Having inherited a recession from the Clinton Administration, Bush cut taxes, spurring the economy into 52 consecutive months of job growth (a record, yielding 8.3 million jobs) all while letting Americans keep more of their hard-earned money. Between 2000 and 2007, real GDP saw growth of more than an impressive 17 percent. Bush also deserves tremendous credit for being a free trader who increased the number of free trade partners almost five-fold, with a Democratic Congress unreasonably blocking three more agreements. We also must not forget that he did attempt to prevent the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac disasters, only to be blocked by congressional Democrats who had cozied up to them.


Bush also helped pave the way for offshore drilling, which had been long overdue. He signed a ban on partial-birth abortion that Bill Clinton had inexplicably opposed, and that was one of many policies that reduced abortion rates to the lowest since 1974. He had the courage to attempt meaningful Social Security reform, and even if he did not succeed, he at least recognized the massive Ponzi scheme and sought to fix it. Bush also appointed two excellent judges, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, to the Supreme Court, safeguarding parts of the Constitution for at least a few more years. Under Bush, crime, youth drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, teenage pregnancy and pollution all fell, some quite drastically.


Bush performed well on domestic issues, but, perplexingly for the New York Times and its friends, the Texas cowboy was at his best in conducting foreign policy and fighting the war on terror. Since 9/11, Bush has captured or killed most of Al Qaeda’s leadership and many of its foot soldiers. He has liberated Afghanistan from monsters who pulled out fingernails at the sign of nail polish, opening up a whole new world for its women. And sure enough, he managed to keep 300 million people in America unharmed since 9/11, due to policies that obstructed a number of terrorist plots, caught fanatics, and moved the battle against radicalism from Manhattan to the Middle East.


Bush took Iraq from the claws of a sadistic tyrant and put it in the hands of each of 28 million people. Although he made some strategic mistakes in the process, in the end he managed to plant and grow a democracy in the very heart of the Muslim world. This has spurred the growth of democracy in the region: Kuwaiti women have since gained the right to vote, Egyptians have since been allowed to choose among more than one presidential candidate, and the Saudis have since gotten a taste of democracy by voting in municipal elections. Syria finally took America seriously and withdrew from Lebanon, while Libya ended its weapons of mass destruction programs, and renounced terrorism, within months of the Iraq invasion. These events are no coincidence. And they were brought about with the loss of just over 4,000 heroes – or what in World War II was called “Wednesday.”


Yet despite the relatively low number of casualties, Bush took each and every one seriously – as any commander-in-chief must. Bush sent personal letters to the families of each of the troops who were killed, and constantly met privately with both these families and hundreds of wounded veterans. He (and Vice President Dick Cheney) cooked for them, ran with them, and hung out with them – all outside the presence of cameras. Some of the details are only beginning to emerge now, even if they could have boosted Bush’s popularity during his administration.


Bush’s foreign policy has also brought us closer to the world, despite what foreign policy geniuses like Jimmy Carter might maintain. In addition to a large number of free trade agreements that strengthened bonds with over a dozen countries, Bush built strong relationships in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, including with key nations such as China and India. Top allies such as France, Germany, Italy and Canada all elected pro-American conservative leaders during Bush’s presidency, and the United Kingdom might be close to doing so as well. Colombia has come a long way in the past few years and has demonstrated great loyalty to the U.S., even if top Democrats have refused to grant it a free trade agreement.


If, eight years ago, we were told that planes would bring down the World Trade Center, that we would be forced into military conflict in the Middle East and central Asia, that we would be pummeled by massive, destructive hurricanes, that oil would reach ludicrously high prices, and that mortgage and financial disasters would batter the U.S., we would have thought that America would be close to finished no matter who the president was.


But Bush’s actions have left us with a strong, stable country that proudly holds its head high. And he handed all the problems that came to his desk with admirable principle instead of polls, and with unyielding integrity instead of scandals. And that is why, even if history might give him the credit due, I will not wait for it to do so. Thank you, President Bush. I know that you have served America well.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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