What will be very difficult for Bush’s historic reputation to overcome is that the country is in worse shape than when he came in; that he will likely suffer in comparison to his two immediate successors, his father and Bill Clinton; and that he governed very differently than he campaigned. In 2000, Bush ran as “a uniter, not a divider” and on a “humble” foreign policy! It’s true that voters didn’t get the moderate course from Bush they expected, but this is somewhat due to events.
Right now, people are focusing on the recession, possible national bankruptcy and Iraq, so the president is leaving town quite unpopular. But since economic cycles come and go, the guess here is that the legacy all comes down to the Bush Doctrine. If Iraq becomes a stable democracy and staunch U. S. ally, if Bush’s nation-building works as well as Truman’s in Germany and Japan, then historians will upgrade him. It could be 20, 30 or even 50 years before we get a final verdict on his Iraq policy. His long-term reputation is very dependent on future events. The odds do not look good now, but things can change.
Bush may well be someday seen as the “father of Arab democracy.” By definition, the new government in Iraq is a vast improvement over Saddam. If the Iraq situation turns around, historians will write that it was an occasionally mistake-prone administration that still got the big issues right. If not, they’ll judge him to have squandered thousands of lives and trillions of dollars on a foolish policy. If Iraq never turns around, that — combined with the financial mismanagement — will probably leave Bush in the bottom quartile of presidents. But if it does, he’ll be raised to the middle of the pack. This is one presidency that will almost surely require the passage of many years before we can get a true final perspective.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Patrick Reddy has a fair recounting of the Bush Presidency and how history will view it. His conclusion (emphasis added):