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Report card on President Bush

George W. Bush is wrapping up his second term in the White House, and if I had to grade him on a report card, I would assign him a "B-".

Unfortunately, Bush's domestic policy never got very far. In his first year, he enjoyed a Republican majority in the House and an evenly divided Senate, yet he squandered this opportunity to make some serious reform. (What ever happened to "Compassionate Conservatism," anyway?). Of course, Bush's priorities radically changed after September 11, 2001, and his domestic policy never recovered.

Marvin Olasky recently interviewed co-authors Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam in World Magazine, asking where Bush went wrong in his policy. I found their answer a painful, yet accurate, assessment of the last eight years:
There was always a strain of anti-intellectualism running through the Bush administration, which undercut Bush's policy agenda. And after 9/11, he seemed to lose interest in domestic policy entirely (understandably!), and the result was drift and corruption, as a series of bad bills (especially on energy and transportation) and bad actors (from Tom DeLay to Jack Abramoff) came to define the GOP agenda, and the biggest issues facing middle America, from rising health-care costs to growing socioeconomic immobility, went unaddressed. The Bush administration's push for Social Security reform was a disaster. Their proposals weren't bad as policy, but they massively misjudged the political climate, and Bush squandered all of his second-term capital on a reform that never even came up for a vote.
On the other hand, I believe Bush's foreign policy proved quite strong in the areas that were most needed. To see just how effective Bush's response to 9/11 was, check out this article. It catalogues all the known terrorist plots that were thwarted by the U.S. government since 9/11. Here's just a sampling:
  • December 2001, Richard Reid: British citizen attempted to ignite shoe bomb on flight from Paris to Miami.

  • June 2003, Virginia Jihad Network: Eleven men from Alexandria, Va., trained for jihad against American soldiers, convicted of violating the Neutrality Act, conspiracy.

  • August 2005, Los Angeles homegrown terrorists plotted to attack National Guard, LAX, two synagogues and Israeli consulate.

  • June 2007, JFK Plot: Four men are accused of plotting to blow up fuel arteries that run through residential neighborhoods at JFK Airport in New York.

Because of improvements in national security, these and many other terror plots were thwarted. It's too bad Bush got so little respect for the steps he took to prevent another 9/11 (or worse). Bush also deserves credit for his troop surge in early 2007 that finally turned the tide of the War in Iraq.

So, while George Bush's domestic policy was largely a failure, and probably helped evoke the pendulum swing to the far left in the 2008 election, his foreign policy has proven quite effective since 9/11. Certainly, there are many disappointments, but there are also many reasons to be thankful for the leadership Bush has given this country over the last eight years.

Photo credit: Paul Morse


  1. Wow, good post.

    I think Bush's domestic policy matters not only for what he "did" but what he "held back." As Obama comes into office we will see federal funding for abortion, and money given to other nations for the "procedure."


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