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The Bush Presidency: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

There's roughly one year remaining in the Bush presidency.

Given his (severely) lame-duck status, I'll assume no major and new accomplishments from now until Jan. 2009. I'll also assume no further calamities in the political sense of the word.

You'll have to click the below link if you're interested in reading the full text of this entry.

As a teaser, I've listed 11 items under "good," 10 items under "bad," and four items under "ugly."

The Good

i. The Bush Doctrine

Trying to stop people from killing you is a good thing. If somehow you don't get that, well, never mind, life's too short (literally).

ii. Justices Roberts and Alito


iii. Tax Cuts -- Lots of Tax Cuts


iv. Free Trade

Free trade is a fundamental and foundational principle of conservative economic theory.

With a few notable (and unfortunate) exceptions, mostly during Term I, Bush has been a solid and successful advocate for free trade. More free trade statutes and free trade pacts have been enacted and signed, respectively, during this administration than during the three prior administrations -- combined.

v. The Lower Federal Courts

Bush is responsible for several dozen originalist/constructionist federal appeals court judges, many of whom are young enough to serve for decades to come.

vi. ICE, REAL ID, Secure Freight, eVerify, CBP, Fugitive Alien Taskforce, Passport Reforms

Believe it or not the Bush administration has done more in the way of overall border control than any previous administration. Do some independent research. Review all the facts, not merely the agenda-driven hyperbole.

Various conservatives reflexively will complain about most if not all of the above items. That rings as hollow as bamboo. Do you want more border control or do you not want more border control? Do you want strict immigration law enforcement or do you not want strict immigration law enforcement?

If you want more border control and strict immigration law enforcement then you *also* have to accept more federal laws, more federal agents to enforce those laws and more federal money to pay those agents for their services. You can't have it both ways.

vii. Lawsuit/Tort/Business Reforms and Appointees

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Firearms Act. The Class Action Reform Act. The Healthy Forests Restoration Act. The Bankruptcy Reform Act. Pro-business federal judges. Pro-business appointees to the SEC, the EEOC, the FCC, and to the NLRB. The past seven years have seen the most sweeping anti-lawsuit and pro-business national reforms in any of our lifetimes.

viii. The Energy Policy Act

This landmark law directly is responsible for many if not most of the landmark activities ongoing in nuclear, renewable and alternative energies. Literally decades from now there still will be positive, pro-business effects traceable to that statute.

ix. No Federal Public Money for Stem Cells

I'm not a pro-lifer. Far from it. But this is a fiscal conservative issue in addition to being a social conservative/libertarian issue.

We don't need federally-taxpayer-funded stem cell research. If stem cells -- embryonic or otherwise -- truly are a panacea, then individual states, private donors, corporate donors and venture capitalists, are more than capable of providing all the money necessary to conduct the appropriate research.

x. Social Security

His reforms never got off the ground -- it would have taken GOP super-majorities in Congress to overcome the media/Democrats -- but the bottom line is that Bush became the first national political leader to stand up and to start calling for serious changes to that ghastly Ponzi scheme.

Keep in mind the great Ronald Reagan not only did nothing to contain Social Security he actually raised taxes for it and expanded the program too. Whereas decades from now, when serious and positive changes do get implemented (for the simple reason there'll be no other choice), Bush's idea of private and self-directed accounts will be on the table.

xi. Iraq -- 2007 Surge - Present


* * *

The Bad

i. Steel Tariffs

Pandering is bad enough but this was pandering on a core economic principle of conservatism.

ii. Non-Military (Profilgate) Spending from 2001-2006

Spending lots of money to defeat genocidal terrorists is a very good thing. You must do what has to be done. But spending lots of public money on rank and pork projects is a very bad thing.

It would have been quite easy to reign in discretionary federal spending. But the Prez didn't take steps towards that end until after conservatives threw away Congress. Too little, too late. Plus even if the GOP had retained Congress it would not have excused the profilgate ways of Term I.

iii. Harriet Miers

We don't know what she would of been like on the High Court. It's also a moot point. But this nomination never should been made.

There are dozens of proven conservatives occupying the state and federal appeals courts. Many of them, ironically enough, had been nominated by Bush himself. It's therefore mind-numbing that he would have picked someone with no real track record and with such an obvious aura of cryonism.

iv. Terry Schiavo

The federal government has no business sticking its nose into a local state court family law dispute. The administration's attention to and involvement in this train wreck accomplished nothing, set a bad precedent, and derailed what should and would have been massive momentum from those ringing GOP victories in 2004.

v. The Loyalty Thing

There's Miers. There's also Norm Mineta. Kevin Martin. John Snow. Paul O'Neill. Jim Nicholson. Alberto Gonzales. Colin Powell. Robert Mueller. Karl Rove.

Ineffective at best and in some cases totally incompetent officials who (a) were given power based upon their personal loyalty to Bush, or (b) retained in power based upon Bush's personal loyalty to them. You can't run a government that way.

vi. Mortgage Miasma

It set a very bad precedent for the administration to lean on private lenders to re-write their loan portfolios. Furthermore we don't need additional public-money loan insurance or loan purchase programs. We certainly don't need taxpayer-subsidized loan counseling programs. All in all this was a train wreck.

vii. Do Not Call Registry

This was and is government paternalism at its worst.

viii. NCLB Education Law

The accountability aspects are good. But, still, we need to be spending less federal money on education, not more of it.

Major tax credits for real-world job training programs would have been a better idea and one that could have made it thru Congress. Major tax credits for adult education in the hard sciences also would have been welcome and doable.

ix. Iraq -- 2004 up to the 2007 Surge

I'm not a military expert. But, still, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

By late-2003 it had become painfully and blatently obvious the coalition needed another few brigades of front-line combat infantrymen. It's a fiasco it took over three more *years* before the administration got those boots (and their support troops) on the ground.

If something obviously isn't working you don't continue doing it. You do what needs to be done -- even if that's not entirely consistent with the so-called party line.

x. Signing McCain-Feingold

Signing a bogus law on the theory the Supreme Court would have the opportunity to strike it down is absurdly naive and negligent. All Bush had to do was to break out the veto pen. That law has accomplished nothing and it's set a bad precedent too.

* * *

The Ugly

i. Medicare Rx Coverage

An outright abomination and one that will have negative fiscal effects for decades.

ii. The Media Spin Machine

It's astonishing how inept this administration is regarding the national liberal Democrat MSM. It's almost as if they're in a perpetual state of naivete and denial.

Republican presidents need to treat the media for what it actually is: a hostile and relentless adversary. The Prez or his agents or spokespersons should have been on local TV networks and local radio networks, each week, week after week, month after month, year after year, getting the facts out to the general public, without having those facts filtered by the Republican-hating media. That the administration fails to realize this -- even today -- boggles the mind.

iii. The "Occupation" of Israel by Israel

It was bad enough when Bush -- arguably the lamest duck in modern history -- decided to ram up against the brick wall of Israeli-Arab peace talks. (What could he possibly have hoped to accomplish?) But then he went ahead and opened up his mouth.

By using the term "occupation," to refer to lands west of the Jordan River, Bush in one stroke validated and ratified a canard that's been perpetuated for decades by the leftist media and leftist academia. He's also saddled future GOP presidents with the starting point of the fatally-flawed (literally) "two-state" solution. Last but not least, ironically enough, by signing onto the idea of a so-called Palestinian state he's undermined his own core doctrine of not appeasing terrorists. Utterly senseless.

iv. Cheney Still as Veep - Contested GOP Primary

I like Cheney. But, come on, at some point somebody in the White House had to realize the last thing we need is a contested GOP primary contest.

Cheney could have stepped down at any point during 2005 or early to mid-2006. We could have had a young vice president who quickly would have swept aside all primary challengers, formed a consensus with Republicans and voting conservatives, and the general public, and moved forward towards an easy victory in the '08 general election -- perhaps even with lower-ticket coattails. Instead we've been saddled with a fractious and divisive cabal of challengers and the very real prospect of a fractious, divisive and self-defeating nominating convention. That's senseless with a capital S.


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Comments (22)

Your "good" is the worst an... (Below threshold)

Your "good" is the worst analysis I could possibly imagine. As a conservative I seriously resent your libertarian views being presented as conservative. "Free" trade is a liberal concept. "Fair" trade is the what we espouse. Where did you ever get the idea that conservatives believe it's a good idea to transfer our wealth to third-world countries to prop up their economies.

I mostly agree with your li... (Below threshold)

I mostly agree with your list. I strongly agree on the Cheney issue. He should have resigned a couple years ago and had one of the current GOP candidates replace him. Stupid. ww

I really don't know why any... (Below threshold)
Eric Forhan:

I really don't know why anyone would even want to be President these days.

Conservative principles inc... (Below threshold)

Conservative principles include minimal government interference in the domestic marketplace and domestic business.

But what is called 'Free Trade' today is often Unilateral. Which really isn't 'Free Trade' at all. Promoting this form of 'Free Trade' under the pretense that our partners will one day "see the light" is not Core Conservatism. Its been modern Republicanism.

Anytime before the last 30-35 years, if we had close to a trillion dollar trade deficit with a country that fixes it currency, no conservative would have stood for it in open public.

You forgot filing the amicu... (Below threshold)

You forgot filing the amicus brief with the SC on the side of the DC ban. Payback for conservatives against AMNESTY.

Fred has the door wide open, he should ask Rudy, Mitt and MCPAin where they stand on this.

The ongoing Bush visit to t... (Below threshold)

The ongoing Bush visit to the MidEast certainly rates under the good. And even though the corrupt Fatah dominated Palestinian government was all smiles with the recent Bush visit, it still made me feel proud at the great reception given the president may yet lead to some late peace breakthrough agreement.

My biggest fears with the election of Bush in 2000 were 1. The economy may suffer. 2. MidEast peace may stall. 3. War.

The economy did suffer, but largely only due to the unexpected 9/11 attacks, and only recently is showing some signs of an actual looming recession because of a slowdown in real estate or excessive oil prices. Heavy political support from the oil and defense industry elements did help to create the elective Iraq War though despite any real threat from the weakened Saddam Hussein. And MidEast peace remains rocky, with ongoing violence and past war in Lebanon huge factors.

Mr. Bush was also at his best in his response to the 9/11 attacks. It was certainly understandable to most Americans that our soldiers had to go to Afghanistan to defend America because the Taliban controlled government certainly allowed Al Qaeda to freely organize their attacks on the mainland U.S., but at the same time most Americans do not remember that under Reagan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements were given heavy American support in their fight against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, so Afghanistan was really an example of an ongoing failed Republican foreign policy philosophy.

In reality, neither Bush will probably be viewed in the history books as great presidents. But sometimes they responded well to major events and challenges, and sometimes they failed to do so. The father failed to be re-elected, and the son was barely re-elected over weak challenger, John Kerry.

It is also certainly understandable why many voters want to see change in 2008. Many voters are tired of the seemingly endless years of Bush-Clinton-bush rule and want new leadership for a change and a new direction for the country.

Paul, you live in bazarro w... (Below threshold)

Paul, you live in bazarro world.

So in your world, Exxon wanted the war in Iraq.

In 2000, there was a Clinton recession made worse by the 9/11 attacks, but you were afraid Bush would hurt the economy.

GW started the war on terror. Yep.

Oh, I seem to remember that FDR sided with Stalin to achieve a victory in Germany.

I seem to remember England and France choosing sides in our civil war.

Take your blinder off Paul. GW had more horrible things thrown at him then any other president and yet he performed. He had not precedence to follow. The history books will look at his presidency in a positive light.

What did Clinton achieve? ww

I'd add:* UGLY: hi... (Below threshold)

I'd add:

* UGLY: his initial response to Katrina, where he was out of touch and his deputies were clueless.

* BAD: his follow up response to Katrina, where trying to regain ground lost due to his initial bungling (and to pre-empt any complaint that Iraq spending should be curtailed), he wrote a blank check to rebuilding New Orleans.

* UGLY: Being unprepared to respond to the Enron and other business scandals.

* BAD: again, trying to regain lost ground, allowing the Justice Department (the Thompson Memo) to trash defendant rights, to criminalize what should have been treated as civil matters, and signing Sarbanes-Oxley, which has cost businesses billions of dollars.

* UGLY: Doing nothing (apart from his ill-advised attempt to muscle the lending industry) to re-energize the economy, instead spending his time in the Middle East. Given that the economy is usually priority #1 and the Middle East down on the list, this again shows how out of touch Bush is with America.

* BAD: failing to follow through on the Bush Doctrine. (a) Iran and Syria have incurred no penalty for their sponsoring and supporting attacks on US military forces. (b) Saudi Arabia has paid no price (reduced visas, etc.) due to its financial support of terrorism, (c) There has been a 'the dog isn't barking' lack of any recent reports of terrorists being captured/killed outside of Iraq (remember the drone attack that killed the terrorists in Yemen years ago? And very little, if anything, since then?).

UGLY (an offshoot of Jayson's Ugly ii): (a) his inability to defend harsh interrogation tactics in dealing with terrorists, even after reports that 'torture' was used and effective in gaining information that prevented attacks. (b) his poor response to Abu Ghraib, where an isolated groups of idiots were allowed to tarnish the entire US military effort. (c) his failure to defend Guantanamo publicly as strongly as he has done in the courts. His refusing to step up to the microphone allowed the Democrats to seize the public high ground and has cost us big time.

UGLY: misreading the 1984 election as a affirmation of public support for him rather than an unwillingness to have Kerry as President.

Keep in mind the g... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Keep in mind the great Ronald Reagan not only did nothing to contain Social Security he actually raised taxes for it and expanded the program too.

Wrong! Ronald Reagan was able to raise the retirement age. While not by much and only over a long time, it was a positive step. Reagan also reduced the lucrative payments that were being made to widows and widowers with underage children. Reagan's increased tax rate is the only reason social security is still viable (more income than expense) and will be for about 8 more years. Bush actually made things worse from a finance point of view with his Medicare changes.

Yes Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, but it's a better Ponzi scheme than many private pensions.

Sorry, forgot to add:... (Below threshold)

Sorry, forgot to add:

BAD: Hamstringing Israel during its fight with Hezbollah. While privately, he may have been supportive, he needed to have done more publicly to back Israel's fight against terrorists, instead of allowing Rice to talk about proportionate response. In doing so, he confirmed the terrorist thinking that we're unwilling to do what is necessary to destroy them.

BAD: doing relatively nothing while Iran continues its work on nukes and, as he did for too long with Iraq, allowing the 'international community' to define our national security posture.

vii. Do Not Call R... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
vii. Do Not Call Registry

This was and is government paternalism at its worst.

The only thing bad about the Do Not Call Registry is that it didn't go far enough. It should have included all solicitation including political. Every private property owner has the right to prohibit solicitation on their property. Well, my phone is my private property and I should have the right to decide if I want it to be used for solicitation or not. The Do Not Call Registry is simply the means for individuals to exercise their property rights. It's no more government paternalism than our justice system.

I agree with Mac Lorry on t... (Below threshold)
Eric Forhan:

I agree with Mac Lorry on the Do Not Call list. It should be considered a privilege for businesses to call homes; not a right. Making it federally-mandated made it easier to comply for consumers and businesses both and likely well-within the US Constitution's Commerce Clause. Ironically, no one ever complains about related laws forbidding midnight calls from telemarketers.

As for Katrina: The failure was first on the people who trusted their government would be the best at handling emergencies, second on the local government, third on the state government (who initially refused federal help) and finally the federal. Katrina should have been a wake-up call to everyone; instead it's become a talking point.

iii. The "Occupati... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
iii. The "Occupation" of Israel by Israel

First, Bush is "lame duck" only in the sense of passing new legislation. He's not impaired in the least in using his veto powers nor those involving foreign affairs or the military. If Bush somehow pulls off a peace accord between Israel and moderate Palestinians not even the Democrat controlled congress could deny Bush whatever legislative action was needed to support such an accord. To do so would destroy the illusion that Democrats are for peace.

iv. Cheney Still as Veep - Contested GOP Primary

We could have had a young vice president who quickly would have swept aside all primary challengers, formed a consensus with Republicans and voting conservatives, and the general public, and moved forward towards an easy victory in the '08 general election

What a pipe dream! To have any chance with the majority of voters, who still oppose the Iraq war, such a Vp would have to be openly at odds with Bush over Iraq and that would give those who are vested in defeat the means to bring about such a defeat. Winning in Iraq is too important and winning the presidency is never a sure thing.

"vii. Do Not Call Registry ... (Below threshold)

"vii. Do Not Call Registry - This was and is government paternalism at its worst."

I get charged for minutes when a computer calls my cell phone with a recorded message. The Do Not Call Registry saves me money and time, and gives me some control over my phone.

It's my choice to register or not register. This is not an example of the government protecting me from myself.

Please explain why the Do Not Call Registry is "bad" and, for extra credit, describe your preferred alternative.

Not up to your usual standa... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Not up to your usual standards, JJ. For instance, you know as well as I do that SCOTUS picks are a soup of who is available, the Congress of the moment, the nerve of the POTUS at the time, and you don't really get to play nit-pick giving credit and blame on purely subjective criteria. We will never know whether Miers would have been a good pick or a lousy one, not least because the asshats made sure she never got a fair hearing.

As for Cheney, Bush should not be blamed for refusing to play kingmaker. Veeps do not usually do that well in running for the Oval Office anyway, and there is nothing to show that if Cheney had stepped down just for the chance to 'anoint' a successor that it would have done any god at all. I personally respect the fact that Dubs let the man do his job and kept the meddling hands of the RNC out of the VP office. Cheney did his job pretty darn well, and we don't need a placesitter or a rookie in there.

As for Iraq, it's awfully easy to pull stuff out of your ass 4 years later, the Donks do it al the time. Dubs made the hard call, and all this chicken-shit second-guessing by Republicans/Conservatives while he is still doing the job is pretty lame and arrogant.

I will say it again and again, because a lot of folks don't seem to notice where we're headed: Dubya is one HELL of a lot better than anything we have running for office right now, and few people will realize this until the next clown is in the White House and we have to live with the imitation-President we picked. No, I am not saying GWB is RWR, but you will miss him when he's gone. Especially if you fall into Donk habits while we're still telling the present school of GOPpies what we expect from our President.

well if you don't like the ... (Below threshold)

well if you don't like the Palestinean state proposal you should not be a McCain fan-

McCain's stance on Palestinean Israeli relations via andrew McCarthy at The National Review

-McCain & the Israeli/Palestinian Dispute [Andy McCarthy]

As I've previously noted, Sen. McCain adheres to the ill-conceived view, long regnant in diplomatic circles, that striking a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is a top priority of U.S. foreign policy. (By contrast, the candidate I support, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, argues that Palestinians should not be treated as a civilized negotiating partner until they abandon terrorism and acknowledge Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.) Essentially, McCain would continue the disastrous policy currently being pursued by the Bush administration, which (as John Hinderaker recently observed at PowerLine) has now relieved the Palestinians of the "roadmap" prerequisite that they end terrorist attacks against Israel before further negotiations can proceed -- such that the President now talks incessantly about his ne plus ultra of Palestinian statehood even as Israeli civilians are targeted by rocket-fire.

How do you know ab... (Below threshold)

How do you know about the "timing" of the surge?

Short-hand you formed your opinion from the MSM the same MSM you say knows nothing about and reports falsely on the economy. At least you assert that they are msleading.

If there is anything the MSM is further divorced from other than reality it is the military community.

This is the same media that is reporting that Ron Paul is/was a US Army surgeon.

That's plain wrong on many levels-but they can't even get that simple fact right.

The military does not turn warships on a dime, they do not adapt just due to their steeped in tradition nature rapidly to the mobile, changing and rule breaking "small" terrorists groups.

We set up the situation to get more troops in there now by the actions taken previously.

Whos' to say that had we moved in earlier with huge inmobile troops having to secure large spaces for them that we would not have provided the terroroist with a huge KILL number for the terrorists to play the media war against the public opinion front at home?

That's all 20/20 hindsight guessing using the "meausrements" of the very MSM you rail against on the economic front.

4 1/2 years to pull off not only Iraq but Afghanistan with troops severly drawn down on by not only the Clinton administration is no small feat-but I guess it took too long for the immediate gratification generation.

Your main mantra is that the media has deservedly earned their lack of credibility on the economic front but you use these tools to second guess the war effort-I just don't get it.

It seems inconsistent.

Cr*P-I'm off to go... (Below threshold)


I'm off to go spell Palestinian a hundred times....

Well said Rory.... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Well said Rory.

There's 150 million phone n... (Below threshold)
John S:

There's 150 million phone numbers on the do-not-call list. I'd suggest you're outvoted on that one. Now if they only would extend the prohibition to political and charity calls.

> ix. Iraq -- 2004 up to... (Below threshold)

> ix. Iraq -- 2004 up to the 2007 Surge

I'm not a military expert. But, still, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

By late-2003 it had become painfully and blatently obvious the coalition needed another few brigades of front-line combat infantrymen.

No. The strategy* from 2003 to early 2006 was working - slowly but it was working. That changed when Al Qaeda blew up the famous Shiite Mosque in (feb?) 2006. Sparking the near civil war. The problem was in not revising the strategy quickly enough between feb 2006 and Nov 2006. But it was revised and implemented (Petraeus' COIN aka Surge)

*Train the iraqi's, stay mostly in fortified areas, lots of patrols and raids on known terrorists.

Arrgh. I don't know what t... (Below threshold)

Arrgh. I don't know what the deal is with the formatting but the first 3 paragraphs in the previous note should have been italized as they were the parts I was quoting.






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