The Long Goodbye


In recent weeks, we have been treated to a series of interviews conducted mostly by President George W. Bush and in some cases by the First Lady, Laura, regarding the legacy of the 43rd president of the United States. Critics call it an exercise in spin and trying to save face by this highly unpopular president. More sympathetic observers recognize that Bush is trying to leave with his head up high and often refer to Harry S.Truman who left the presidency with very unfavorable ratings only to be rehabilitated much later by historians of another generation. That is Bush’s hope.

Surely his commitment to fight AIDS in Africa is seen in all political quarters as a major achievement. Even Obama conceded this much throughout his campaign. Bush’s decision, post-9/11, to build a UN- and NATO-backed coalition to invade Afghanistan and topple the Taliban will be applauded by historians as an appropriate response to 9/11. Should America ultimately fail there, it will most likely be on Obama’s watch and not Bush’s. Iraq is another matter but, should democracy prevail and flourish in the region in the next quarter century, historians may credit Bush’s decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein as the catalyst. So while I have been critical of the Bush administration, I must concede that history can be a humbler. On the domestic level, two accomplishments are regularly acknowledged: the No Child Left Behind education policies and the national prescription drug insurance program, both of which were adopted with significant Democratic backing.

And yet, Bush’s poll numbers are the lowest-ever for a retiring president. The economy is a mess, two inconclusive wars are in progress, the Middle East is continuing to be a hotbed of conflict and that’s not to mention Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. More damning evidence has emerged about Bush’s entourage, his style of management and the constant politicization of the facts to justify dubious political action. It is not a pretty picture. I have stated that, without Bush, there would have been no Obama. The desire for a transformational presidency has more to do with the dissatisfaction regarding the Bush presidency than the inspirational rhetoric of his successor. Obama has implicitly acknowledged this by his nominations and early policy announcements.

Bush has not fulfilled the promise of his presidency. His accomplishments domestically have been overshadowed by his governing style, which has been divisive and highly partisan. His foreign policy has been a failure because of his constant vacillation and his lack of both focus and principle. The repudiation of nation-building, the unilateralism, the preemptive military action, the messianic pronouncements about the spread of democracy and the end of tyranny—all of them show Bush lacking the curiosity and the compass to make a significant contribution to advance peace in the world. In the process, he squandered all of the goodwill following 9/11 and severely mortgaged America’s moral credibility in the world by endorsing behaviours such as torture to protect American interests. His selective interpretation of the events since 2001 do little to enhance his reputation. Some say he has prevented another terrorist attack on US soil. But does anybody really believe that the world is safer from terrorism and that American ideals are more respected in the world because of the policies of George W. Bush? The events of 9/11 occurred on his watch because he ignored evidence that an attack could take place in the United States. Thankfully, it is time for him to say goodbye.

Filed under:

The Long Goodbye

  1. “…should democracy prevail and flourish in the region in the next quarter century, historians may credit Bush’s decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein as the catalyst.”

    Or to put it another way, if a McMansion is one day built where my shoddy home once stood, historians may credit my arsonist neighbour’s decision to torch my house and murder my family as the catalyst.

    I think it’s a pretty safe prediction that Bush’s action in Iraq can never be redeemed – it was a war crime, committed for inexcusable reasons, sold via the bloody shirt of 9-11. The scale of human suffering he caused should silence all Machiavellian excuses for all time.

    If Iraq ever crawls out of its current status as a failed state, Bush will deserve no credit whatsoever for the improved lives of the survivors.

  2. “Bush’s decision, post-9/11, to build a UN- and NATO-backed coalition to invade Afghanistan and topple the Taliban will be applauded by historians as an appropriate response to 9/11.”

    Did you hear? Saudi Arabia had more to do with 9/11 than Afghanistan.
    Did you hear? The Taliban is not yet toppled.
    The historians who applaud – will any of them have ever taken part in wedding parties that featured the inadvertent dropping of bombs? Will any of them know the difference in purpose between intelligence agencies and armies?

    • I think what Parisella is implying is that history is often kind when reviewed through revisionist’s eyes. So though I never thought attacking Afghanistan was the right move, had the Taliban really been destroyed and democracy re-established, then it would have been seen in a positive light. Bush erred by starting another war, without finishing this that one, hencing stretching his resources and focussing on Iraq. But if Obama is successful in Afghanistan, then Bush’s actions might be redeemed and Parisella will be right.

      Also, I think you should cut PArisella some slack. I can only imagine how hard it was to find some things to praise Bush on. First off, that’s a difficult feat in itself- but second off, knowing John’s bias , this was doubly hard….: Good try though John.

      • I have to give you gredit ,Goog. john really hates Bush and was trying to hide it in the first part .CWE has a point :the Taliban is still a force to be reckoned with . Bush should have pushed Bin Laden more .I was for Bush in 2000 but he has been a failure. Cheney did not help.

      • I get what you’re saying, goog, but I see lots of people trying hard for Bush already and if Parisella never counted himself among the boosters before, then why would he want to start now?
        But, if he really needed something complimentary to say about the guy, why not go with something like, “Bush’s decision, post 1/20, to take a long, long walk and never, ever come back will be applauded by everyone as appropriate,” or, “He was some kinda lousy creep as presidents go, but as a ducker of shoes, there were few as agile and good natured”?

        • Bush made mistakes but there have been no attacks since.CWE is just too blind to admit it .

          • If by blind you mean ‘not a booster’, electrician, then you’re right, but you’re also quite forgetful. Wilfully so? The stated reason for invading Afghanistan wasn’t to bomb the shit out of no place in particular in the spirit of vaguely defined object lessons, it was that they wouldn’t just fork over Osama Bin Laden when they were told to, and so Mr. Tough Guy had to go get him himself. Have you felt extra-safe and secure ever since OBL was taken into custody? Oh wait…

  3. respectfully it is not clear to me that “Should America ultimately fail [in Afghanistan], it will most likely be on Obama’s watch and not Bush’s.” While it may be the case that the loss i called during the Obama administration, I think that it may well be the case that some would argue that had Bush not fancied a chance to invade Iraq, and spent the effort and resources in Afghanistan that things may have looked awfully different.

  4. just heard Bush and trying to be open but……… Not much to brag about.
    3% more unemployment than when he arrived,big deficit as opposed to a surplus when he arrived,2 wars still going when he had none when he arrived,terror attack on US soil after not listening to the OBL threat when he arrived,Republicans losing both Houses,Gitmo,torture,Abramoffand Scooter Libby scandal,Katrina `s management ,more uninsured in healthcare……….Good riddance .