Now that the election is over, the lame-duck presidency has officially begun.
So with only three months remaining in his presidency, the question is set to be asked — what will the George W. Bush legacy be?
Will the president forever be seen as a stubborn, idiotic, southern hick whose actions led to a historic decline in American power and prominence both at home and abroad? Or will he be seen as the president who stood his ground, kept true to his word and worked even in the face of political pressure to do what was right for the nation?
Obviously only time will be able to tell what the history books have to say about the president, but until then pundits across the nation (including myself) can and will look back over the past eight years to analyze the good, the bad and even the ugly of the Bush presidency. For the record, here is my take:
Loathed as he is today, it cannot be denied that in the months following Sept. 11, the president did as good a job as any of bringing this nation together to face a new threat to our national security.
Some will say that this national unity was simply an effect of the terrorist attacks, and while that undoubtedly played a role, the president still showed powerful leadership and put forth strong, decisive action when the country needed it most. It should also be said that in the seven years since those attacks, the U.S. has yet to be hit by another terrorist attack at home; again, not entirely Bush’s doing, but he does deserve some credit for the fact.
As far as his accomplishments for conservatism in America are concerned, Bush left his mark with the appointments of both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
Having these justices on the bench in our nation’s highest court will likely prove invaluable to conservatism in America, especially in years to come with the Democratic Party controlling both of the remaining branches of our government.
No other issue may have hurt the president’s legacy and credibility worse than the war in Iraq.
Admittedly, when the war began, I was an ardent supporter of the cause, and to this day, I still believe that the Iraqi people are far better off than they were ever going to be under the rule of Saddam Hussein.
However, there is no getting around the fact that planning for the situation that U.S. forces would be faced with after the conclusion of major combat was woefully mismanaged (and that stupid “Mission Accomplished” sign didn’t help either. Seriously whose idea was that?)
Thankfully, we seemed to have turned a corner with the recent surge in troops in Iraq; it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t come up with such a solution sooner.
The recent bailout package has also become a black eye on the Bush legacy, specifically to those of us who supported the President for his supposed conservative ideals. Taking $700 billion from taxpayers and simply giving it away to failing businesses is far removed from the idea of free capitalism and the removal of government intervention in the free market.
Instead, the President has created a dangerous precedent that may lead to more and more power being vested in the federal government and outside the free markets.
These two instances, combined with many other decisions made by the administration have at the very least left the Bush legacy with an ugly mark, but his image may yet be salvaged when history plays out and we see just what exactly his policies meant to this country.
So will the Bush legacy be looked back upon favorably or scornfully?
It’s hard to say, but it certainly isn’t looking good for the President.
Caleb Thornton is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.