It's funny, but I have found myself comforted these past few weeks that he is still the president ... even as we prepare to swear in a new one. I continue to wish Barack Obama well, and I sincerely hope he will prove conservatives wrong by embracing the challenge that is the global struggle against Militant Islam. I am also mindful of the gigantic historical significance of his election, with his inauguration coming on the day after MLK Day.
This is a great country, ladies and gentlemen.
Still, I am going to miss Pres. Bush. I've had my moments with him over the past eight years (who hasn't?), but he has fulfilled two terms in some of the nation's most tumultuous times. He managed to keep his word and his honor while doing so, as well.
In thinking through the legacy of Pres. Bush, I concluded that he is an unusual bird in politics for a couple of reasons: 1) He doesn't politick and/or explain and argue for his positions very well; and 2) He does what he says he is going to do. This would seem to make him a sitting duck in political circles, but all told, he has done pretty well.
Yes, Pres. Bush has angered conservatives with his immigration and spending policies. But he has always believed this way; he campaigned as a "compassionate conservative", after all. He never said he was coming to Washington with a huge budget axe. On immigration, Pres. Bush's views were well-known when he was Texas's governor. His views on immigration (which I happen to disagree with) grow out of his faith (which I happen to share). I think he is misguided, but he never wavered on this point.
Pres. Bush said he would appoint judicial conservatives, and he did so. Whether Harriet Miers (whom I vigorously opposed) would have been one, we won't know. But we do know that Pres. Bush did something that he doesn't do often -- he changed his mind -- and withdrew her nomination to appoint Justice Sam Alito instead. Bush's Supreme Court appointments of Chief Justice Roberts and Alito are simply outstanding. His record on judicial appointments is far better than his father's (Souter, any one?) or even Pres. Reagan (who appointed O'Connor and Kennedy).
Remember the dreadful Prescription Drug Plan? I didn't like it when he campaigned on it, but Pres. Bush enacted it. He vowed to work with Democrats and try to "change the tone" in Washington; thus, one of the first things he did was to have Ted Kennedy over the to the White House for a movie and to set the groundwork for the Education Bill. There was a lot of problems in proceeding this way, not the least of which was that Kennedy and Co. were busy putting knives in Bush's back while he was trying to forge a new path.
He said he would cut taxes and he did. Come to think of it, Pres. Bush pretty much did all of what he said he was going to do.
As for the "new tone", recall that one of the things that Pres. Bush promised to do was "restore the dignity to the White House" after the Clinton era. In doing so, I think he was misguided and failed to defend himself and his party too often, but it is clear that Pres. Bush believes that the president shouldn't be a mere petty politico. He did what he said he was going to ... again.
Arguably, one of the very few areas where Pres. Bush wavered from his campaign rhetoric is that he did, in fact, engage in "nation-building" in Iraq. However, as he did with Harriet Miers, Bush changed course only when it was clear that such a move was consistent with the larger principles he had laid out.
Recall that he said after 9/11 that national security and the terrorist threat would become the principal focus of his administration. Again, he kept his word. People can debate the merits of the Iraq War -- especially in hindsight. However, I remember what virtually all thought just one year after 9/11 -- that Saddam Hussein either had or was about to acquire WMD. Even Obama never argued that Hussein did not have WMD. As such, going into Iraq was consistent with the Administration's focus as articulated after 9/11.
More fundamentally, though, Pres. Bush stayed on track to win in Iraq -- even after he had to remake his own team and strategy to win. This happens in wars, even though it can't be communicated effectively to a text-messaging populace.
Pres. Bush stayed on course during an unpopular war; again, he stayed consistent to what he had said he would do. Obama will get the credit for ending the war; Pres. Bush and his team deserve the credit for winning it.
In the end, Pres. Bush didn't explain himself well enough or often enough. That's too bad. However, I think history will.
I think history will be kind to Pres. Bush. He kept his word and he did restore honor the White House. He pledged to make it his first priority to protect the nation from a terrorist attack, and he did just that.
When Demos were fighting FISA (before some switched there votes to help win elections), the leader of the fight for all of us was Pres. Bush. He was doing what he said he would do after 9/11.
In the course of the presidential campaign and since being elected, Obama has already changed his course more than Pres. Bush did in eight years. Obama already doesn't measure up to the standard set by Pres. Bush.
A lot of people are glad to see Pres. Bush go, and I personally think it's time for a change after 8 years, as well.
But I will miss Pres. Bush come Jan. 21.
In a dangerous and difficult time, he was an honorable man in a treacherous town.