The current narrative of the Bush Presidency is that it is a failure (believed by 107 of 109 historians surveyed)
and that George W. Bush is the worst President in history (believed by
61% of those surveyed historians). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
(D-NV) said, "The president already has the mark of the American people -- he's the worst president we ever had."
That's one narrative. I have another.
being handed one of the worst situations in history from President
Clinton, and being fought tooth and nail by his opponents in government
and the media, literally from the day of his election, President George
W. Bush persevered to restore prosperity at home and to make the US and
the world more free and secure.
The 2000 Election and Transition to Office
November 7, 2000, voters went to the polls and elected George W. Bush
to be President of the United States. After initially conceding defeat
in a private phone call to Bush, Al Gore decided instead to contest the
outcome in Florida. He sued for various recounts and was joined by the
Florida Supreme Court, while Bush fought for counting votes per the
rules in place prior to the election.
that Bush "stole" the election boiled down to two: (1) we should use a
method of determining the winner other than the one in the
Constitution, and (2) we should use a method of determining "voter
intent" other than by counting legally cast ballots per the rules in
place prior to the election.
Later recounts would show that George W. Bush would have won the election in Florida under any method considered by either Al Gore or the Florida Supreme Court.
Miami Herald and USA Today reported George W. Bush would have widened
his 537-vote victory to a 1,665-vote margin if the recount ordered by
the Florida Supreme Court would have been allowed to continue."
Gore would not concede in public until December 13, more than a month
after the election. But the Clinton administration denied the Bush
team the keys to the transition office set up two blocks from the White
House and waiting since November 8, until December 15. Normally a
newly-elected President is provided a transition office the day after
the election. George W. Bush was finally allowed to use his just 36
days before being sworn in as President, or less than half the
transition time allowed other Presidents-elect.
The Pre-Bush Situation and His First Eight Months
year before Bush took office, the stock market peaked and subsequently
declined 8% by the end of 2000. The last four fiscal quarters under
President Clinton showed steadily declining GDP growth rates of 4.8,
3.5, 2.4, and 1.9 percent, respectively. When Bush took office, the US
Government was still operating under the fiscal budget signed by
President Clinton, and would remain so for more than another eight
months. Within six weeks of Bush being sworn in, the economy was
officially in recession.
the defense front, President Bush was handed a smoldering crisis that
had been brewing throughout President Clinton's two terms.
Hussein's Iraq had kicked out the UN weapons inspectors in 1998 and was
in defiance of multiple UN resolutions from 1991 through 2000.
Saddam's Iraq had tried to assassinate former President Bush and fired thousands of times at US and coalition forces enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations.
- The World Trade Center was bombed by Islamists in 1993, killing six and injuring 1,042.
- We lost 18 US Special Ops forces in Mogadishu while fighting Islamist allies of Osama bin Laden.
- Osama bin Laden declared war against the U.S. in his fatwa of 1996.
- The Khobar Towers used to house our servicemen in Saudi Arabia were bombed by Islamists in 1996, killing 19 US servicemen.
embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed in 1998 by bin Laden
supported Islamists, killing at least 223 and injuring thousands.
- Pakistan and India both successfully tested nuclear warheads in 1998, to the surprise of our CIA.
- The USS Cole was bombed in 2000 by Islamists, killing 17 US sailors.
Israel, the Oslo accords had broken down, the PLO had rejected the most
generous "peace for land" deal ever offered, and the intifada was back
in business by the end of 2000.
pursuing nuclear weapon capability (beyond Pakistan and India, who had
it by 1998) were North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Libya.
this time, President Clinton's administration forbade communications
between the CIA and the FBI regarding terrorists or terrorist
activities. Clinton withdrew US forces from Somalia shortly after the
Mogadishu incident. And he treated the terrorist incidents as crimes
to be dealt with by our legal system.
When he did send missiles into Iraq, he made sure it was at night so no one would get hurt. According to the Washington Post,
I'm thinking a strike at 2 am would also minimize possible deaths of guilty Baathists.
ordered the attack Friday, but the raid was delayed a day so it would
not fall on the Muslim sabbath... The missiles struck late at night --
between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Baghdad time -- because Clinton wished to
minimize possible deaths of innocent civilians."
September 11, 2001, or less than eight months after President Bush took
office, Islamist terrorists perpetrated the worst attack by foreigners
on US soil since the burning of Washington, DC, in 1812, killing almost
3,000 civilians. The attackers had been planning and preparing it for
was President Bush's welcome to office. A recession within two months.
The 9/11 attacks within eight months. And an Iraq in continual defiance
of its terms of surrender, multiple UN resolutions and WMD inspectors.
And this after being given only half the transition time as usual.
The Following Seven Years
November 2001 the recession was officially over, just one month under
Bush's own budget, weeks after 9/11 and just 10 months into a Bush
Presidency. It was an historically short and shallow recession.
From 2003 through 2006, all under President Bush and a Republican
Congress, real GDP grew over 3% per year, considered a healthy and
sustainable pace. By early 2008, the real economy had grown about 20%
since Bush took office. Since President Bush took office, the economy
has grown in every single fiscal quarter; there has been no quarter of
negative real growth. Are
you better off now than you were eight years ago? If you are anywhere
near average, yes. Personal, disposable, inflation-adjusted income grew 9% in the first six years under Bush. Since Bush has been President, the unemployment rate has remained under 6.3% and averaged 5.2% (In Clinton's eight years it remained under 7.3% and also averaged 5.2%.)
the foreign front, President Bush used "aggressive diplomacy" to
convince Pakistan to support us in fighting against Osama bin Laden and
the Taliban and to allow us insight into the status of its nuclear
weapons. India, the other new member of the nuclear club, remained on
good terms with us throughout.
Bush, with Congressional support, our NATO allies and our first-rate
military, freed the people of Afghanistan from the Taliban warlords,
helped install a democracy there, captured or killed hundreds of al
Qaida there and drove those remaining, probably including Osama bin
Laden and his top commanders, to remote mountains and caves. By also
cutting off funding sources and communications channels, al Qaida
appears to have been rendered ineffective as a coordinated network of
terrorists under any kind of effective command and control. It's
possible ad hoc "cells" of those sympathetic to al Qaida might still do
some damage on US soil, but none have so far.
President Bush, with large and bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, support from more than 45 countries
and our first-rate military, freed the people of Iraq from Saddam
Hussein, helped install a democracy there, and captured or killed
hundreds of al Qaida, radical Islamists and other terrorists there.
Saddam's WMD capabilities, programs and remaining weapons were removed
from an outlaw regime. I have written elsewhere on the justification
of the Iraq war, which was supported by both pre-war and post-war intelligence.
Bush, with diplomacy, the example of Iraq and the assistance of foreign
allies, convinced Libya to cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Bush, using diplomacy and working with China, Japan and South Korea,
appears to have reached a breakthrough with North Korea, getting it to
dismantle its plutonium creating sites and to allow intrusive inspections. While this all needs to be finalized and verified, such progress illustrates President Bush's skill at effective diplomacy - one that has real results, not paper promises quickly broken and never verified.
Iran is still a problem, but even there President Bush is waging diplomacy in concert with our allies and the United Nations.
short, all the new and major WMD proliferation threats were dealt with
one way or another: Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya. They are
not all put to rest, but about three-and-a-half of the five
biggies appear to have been dealt with sufficiently. And terrorists,
even those inside Iraq and Afghanistan at this point, seem to be kept
at bay for now as well.
think these are tremendous achievements, and ones that would not have
occurred under either a President Gore or President Kerry.
what have been the costs? In dollars, defense spending has gone from
3% of GDP to 4%. That's it -- a level that is still below where it was
for over 50 years, from World War II through 1994.
US lives, 4,147 servicemen lost their lives due to hostile or
non-hostile action in Iraq to date. Each lost life is a tragedy, and I
am deeply grateful to our lost troops and their families. From 2001 to
2006, the worst year for active military duty deaths was 2005, with
1,941 deaths due to all causes. In 1980, President Carter's last year,
there were 2,392 such deaths in a larger military establishment. Each
year in which we had troops engaged in both Iraq and Afghanistan saw
fewer US military deaths than any year from 1980 through 1987, all
years without major conflicts. The major conflicts of World War II, Korea and Vietnam had 405,399, 36,574, and 58,209 fatalities, respectively.
Judging A President
we use these words of Winston Churchill to judge our presidents, did
President Bush "step aside adroitly" or did he stand his post and
"persevere"? He has surely taken the blows.
tempting it might be to some, when much trouble lies ahead, to step
aside adroitly and put someone else up to take the blows, I do not
intend to take that cowardly course, but, on the contrary, to stand to
my post and persevere in accordance with my duty as I see it."