Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bush’s Legacy

I read this comment on The New Republican blog. It states everything I feel and so I wanted to place it here as well. Nicely done, Mr. Gary Fouse. Follow his blog here.

Now that the Bush Administration’s time in office is down to its last couple of months, it is way too early, in my view, to predict his historical legacy. That will probably take at least a generation and largely depend on how Iraq and Afghanistan play out. I do think it appropriate, however, to contribute a few words on the president who is leaving office.

George Bush, from the moment he was sworn in following the controversial election in Florida, was greeted with hate from the left. Indeed, his motorcade was the target of a few eggs as it proceeded from the Capitol to the White House. The hate has never ceased-though he did enjoy a huge spike in support following 9-11. Except for that, the Democrats have done everything in their power to undermine and demean Bush even though he tried to reach out to them. The media also has spent most of the last 8 years contributing to the demonetization of the President, which he could never overcome.

To be sure, many conservatives have also been disappointed with some of Bush’s policies. His lax stand on illegal immigration and border security-even after 9-11, angered many on the right. The aggressive prosecution of two border agents who shot a Mexican drug smuggler caused many (including myself) to believe that the Bush Administration and its Justice Department was not supportive of the Border Patrol.

In addition, Bush, who came to office proclaiming himself a “compassionate conservative”, did nothing to reduce the size of government and cut government spending. As Congress (Democrat and Republican) was having an orgy of earmarks, Bush set aside his veto pen and let it roll on. History will also have to judge his share of the blame for the financial crisis. Though he was, indeed, president, I see a lot more culpability in Congress-especially when it comes to the mortgage-lending fiasco. Yet, the Democrats succeeded in steering public attention toward Bush (and his “tax cuts for the rich”) and away from people like Barney Frank and Chuck Schumer, who were prime culprits in the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac scandals. To me, there was nothing wrong in Bush’s cutting taxes. It was the right thing to do.

One unfortunate aspect of Bush is his inability to be articulate in front of a microphone in the absence of a prepared text. This hurt in two respects. First, he was unable to articulate his convictions. Secondly, it led to the public image fed by the late night comedians that he was a dolt, which he is not.

One area that Bush has done well in is the appointment of federal judges. In spite of unconscionable Democratic obstruction, he has managed to put two outstanding conservative judges on the Supreme Court (notwithstanding the Harriet Miers fiasco), as well as on the federal bench.

But it was his aggressive response to 9-11 that eventually sent liberals and Democrats over the edge. While Afghanistan was and is mostly supported, his invasion and occupation of Iraq sealed his doom. America has few allies in this endeavor, and the establishment of Gitmo and the NSA intercepts have led to the further demonetization of a president who, in my view, was trying to prevent any further
9-11s. To hear the left describe it, we have all lost our freedoms in the past 8 years.

As far as Iraq is concerned, if Bush was lying about weapons of mass destruction, then so was Clinton. The fact is that everyone believed Saddam was building WMD. The CII believed it. The UN believed it. All the major intelligence agencies in the world believed it. Saddam did everything in his power to make the world believe it. And why shouldn’t we have believed it? Saddam, in fact, used chemical weapons against Iran and against the Kurds in the north after the first Gulf War-in one instance, killing 5,000 Kurds in one village with poison gas.

Yet, whether or not they ever existed in terms or amounts we believed-or were dismantled or taken out of the country prior to the invasion, Saddam’s continued rule of Iraq was a world-wide scandal. As he and his sons terrorized an entire nation, major nations were being secretly bought off with oil vouchers to oppose any invasion. There was nothing principled in their opposition to an invasion. It was all about greed. Meanwhile, innocent Iraqis were being dragged off to torture centers, rape rooms and mass graves-by the tens of thousands-as the world sat by and twiddled their thumbs.

Say what you will, George Bush will go to his grave with two things on his resume that any world leader would envy. He removed two of the worst regimes in recent memory and gave some 50 million people an opportunity to live in some measure of freedom. What do the Jacques Chiracs, Gerhard Schroeders, Kofi Annans or Vladimir Putins have on their resumes?

In terms of fighting the war on terror, Bush has also drawn condemnation for the establishment of Guantanemo Bay as a detention center for captured terrorists-a center that will almost certainly be shut down by President Obama when he takes office. Many argue that the prisoners should be afforded the protections of the Geneva Convention-even though these terrorists represent no nation, wear no uniform, have signed no such accords, have targeted innocents as victims and do not abide themselves with any of the Geneva accords-preferring instead to torture, murder/behead their captives.

Others argue that we should overburden our federal court system with these terrorists even though the courts are not equipped to handle them in large numbers and may require the disclosure of classified material to prosecute them. Have we forgotten the German saboteurs who landed on our shores during World War II intent on wreaking havoc here? They were captured, brought before a military tribunal and most of them were executed as spies.

My point here is that these prisoners do not fit into any neat little category of law-breakers or prisoners of war. If you want to consider them as POWs-then they stay in captivity until the “war” is over. In this case, that will be a long time.

As to the NSA intercepts. I still cannot perceive any rational objection to these intercepts. In the wake of 9-11, these intercepts seem to be a perfectly rational response to the threat of mass murder being carried out here at home. If the NSA abroad has identified a terrorist telephone that they are monitoring and that telephone places a call to the US, what in God’s name is the problem with listening in and setting up a tap on the US phone? True, we have a normal procedure for wiretapping phones being used for criminal purposes using the normal court-authorized process. However, and I am speaking from personal experience (as a retired DEA agent), it is a cumbersome process that takes time and resources. The FISA court process is also available in cases of national security, but in the wake of 9-11, when speed may save thousands of lives, even that process was deemed to be insufficient to deal with the threat.

If George Bush has erred in the case of Gitmo and the NSA intercepts, he has done it for one reason-to prevent any future 9-11s on American soil-to save innocent lives. While much of America has gone back to sleep, Bush has remained vigilant. And to this point, he has succeeded (knock on wood). For that, George W Bush deserves our gratitude.

President Bush will leave office with an abysmally low approval rating, much as did Harry Truman, who today is regarded as one of our finest presidents. Many Republicans will blame him for the dire straits their party finds itself. Some of the criticism will be fair-some unfair. Through it all, however, Bush has withstood the hatred directed toward him with grace, which tells me that he is a good and decent man.

Bush’s final legacy will not be determined for a long time. Perhaps it will be that he foolishly believed that bringing democracy to a region that had never experienced it would remove the terrorist threat in the long term. Much of it will depend on the success or failure of Iraq. After 4-8 years of Obama, perhaps, Bush will look wiser to us. I do feel, however, that in a couple of generations, Bush’s reputation as president will be much higher than when he leaves office.

[EagleEye: The revolution is at hand. Will you be a leader or a follower?]

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