The sun has set on George W. Bush’s administration. The president who will be known for his Texan accent rode off into the sunset to reside in Dallas. While all of this sounds like it’s straight out of a John Wayne western, his critics are busy painting a much different picture. They aren’t debating whether he was a bad president but whether he was one of the worst in U.S. history. Only time will tell what Bush’s legacy will be, but right now we can look at what has happened during the past eight years.
While the Iraq War and the war on terror are two important parts of it, it’s easy to overlook domestic policies like the No Child Left Behind Act, health care initiatives and the economic bailout plan, which will have far-reaching effects into the future. Sure, the events as they are unfolding seem to appear one way, but hindsight is 20/20.
In the past, historians have looked at former presidents, like Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, who left office with low approval ratings with a different perspective. Not many people are quick to point out how Nixon opened up U.S.-China trade relations (for better or worse) or how Carter was a pivotal part of the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel.
Here’s an interesting idea: Let’s look at some of the bright spots from the past eight years.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bush’s approval ratings were riding extremely high on the waves of patriotism. The administration’s first move to track down al-Qaida’s mastermind Osama bin Laden and dismantle the Taliban, which sheltered him in Afghanistan, was met with popularity within the U.S.
He had a “Coalition of the Willing,” a group whose member-nations have mostly scaled back in involvement since the contentious War in Iraq. CIA analysts suggest that the U.S. came close to capturing bin Laden in the mountainous region of Pakistan. Although we didn’t find bin Laden, the Taliban were dismantled for the most part, and an effort was made to democratize and stabilize the government.
What a difference a few years and another war can make.
In his January 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain materials for weapons of mass destruction like “yellowcake” uranium in Niger. But upon further investigation, the evidence (like the “yellowcake” report that turned out to be forged) started to waver but by this time, we were already entrenched in two countries. With the attention shifting to Iraq, our operations in Afghanistan suffered.
Last year was the deadliest for servicemen in Afghanistan since the initial invasion in late 2001. With articles like “Biden Arrives In Afghanistan to Discuss the War,” which ran Jan. 10 in The New York Times suggesting we had lost our footing in Afghanistan with the resurgence of the Taliban, this bright spot easily fell into darkness.
Also announced in a 2003 State of the Union Address was an ambitious plan to put $15 billion into the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a plan that would end up saving millions of people with wide-reaching treatments.
In my mind, Bush will be remembered as a president who had good intentions to spread democracy and aid across the world but whose misguided attempts to follow through ended up alienating his countrymen and the rest of the world.