It is common these days, among Republicans as much as among Democrats, to follow the public opinion polls and judge President Bush as a grand failure. Is he? I have a different opinion than the public, and here are my reasons.
Bush is a Good Man
We take this so much for granted, but it is because of President Bush that we do. The eight years before Bush we did not take goodness in a president for granted at all. Clinton was a draft dodger who "loathed the military" and who lied about his deferment. Bush served in the National Guard honorably and his father served his nation with the highest honor possible in the Pacific.
Clinton probably raped women, certainly used and abused women, absolutely committed adultery, and even today Clinton is probably philandering. Bush loves his wife, his mother and his daughters and there is no evidence that he has done anything but love and respect them while he was president (thus incurring the quiet seething of feminists, whose greatest yearning is for a brutish male.)
Clinton immersed his presidency in lies so transparent that no one can deny his mendacity. A federal judge found him in contempt of court for lying. A red-faced Clinton stared straight into the camera and lied about Monica. The transcripts of Clinton shows his totally dishonest persona when he famously ponders what the meaning of "is" is. Bush stumbles in his speech too often, but on this very personal level of honor, there is not a scintilla of proof that Bush lies. Like Reagan, Bush is without guile.
On the political level, people with strong agenda can propose "Bush lied, people died" (even though many in Iraq lived and did not die because the mass murderer Hussein was ousted) or "Clinton lied, Foster died." But this sort of putative political lying is of an entirely different quality. How many young blacks died because of the horrific failures of Johnson's War on Poverty? How many young child in Third World countries died because of Rachel Carlson's phony reporting in Silent Spring? How many millions will die because Gore's Inconvenient Truth is a quite convenient lie? How many may yet die because Carter allowed the Shah of Iran to be replaced by the mad mullahs?
Yet, for all his vanity, no one accuses Carter (or Gore) of lying about the personal details of his marriage or questions that both men served their nation in the military. They, like Bush, loved their wives, served their country, and did not reflexively lie about nearly everything they did. Carter is, in many ways, an absolutely despicable man, but he loves Roselyn, Amy and the memory of Miss Lillian; his faith appears to be real; he served happily under Hymen Rickover, his idol (and how much better an idol than Jeremiah Wright!)
Carter, Reagan, and Father Bush represent sixteen years of basically good men in the White House. Clinton represented eight years of the depths of moral depravity, and Son Bush restored that goodness, perhaps such personal goodness as we will never see, except in Reagan, in our lives. How good is Bush? Consider this: He is a recovering alcoholic who, through the terrors of September 11 and the lowest presidential approval ratings in history, has stayed cheerfully sober. Could any of us have done that? Probably not. Bush has a goodness not just rooted in a wonderful family and a kind heart, but most importantly in an abiding faith in our Blessed Creator. Goodness counts. It counts for a lot.
Taking the Fight to Our Enemies
How do we expect to win the war against those who would destroy us without fighting back? Did we intend to defeat Hitler by more coast guard patrols off the Atlantic Coast? Did we intend to defeat Japan by beefing up our ground forces in California? How did those of us who wanted to win the Cold War plan to do that? Was not help for Polish workers, proposing SDI, arming Afghan freedom fighters and supporting Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe essential to bringing down the Soviet Empire?
The plain fact is that too many Leftists have no intention of winning the war against those who would destroy us. They never believe in America winning wars at all. So, when Reagan fought the Cold War to win, the Left was outraged. When conservatives wanted to win the Vietnam War (or at least prevent defeat), the Left was outraged. Reruns of MASH show how the Left thought about the Korean War (and who, now, can question that the hideousness of communist North Korea was worth fighting?)
Was going into Iraq a good decision? Perhaps and perhaps not. Was the prosecution of the war done well? Maybe and maybe not. But the strategic decision of taking the fight to our enemies was a critically important and very good decision. When America fought Hitler, the strategic decision was to utterly defeat him. That grand and righteous goal was littered with hundreds or thousands of tactical and operational mistakes.
President Bush, soon after the attack on the World Trade Center, decided that we would win the war against our enemies. Because of that, we have been safe. Benefits like personal safety are the easiest things to take for granted. Leftist elites, with their bodyguards and gated communities, seldom have to fear from anything. They prefer to dwell on mythic dangers, like global warming, rather than true dangers, like urban Armaggedon. President Bush, a friend more of all of us than some of us, has made protecting us a priority.
Roberts and Alito
The recent Supreme Court decision about terrorists at Guantanamo Bay illustrates just how important presidential appointments to the Supreme Court are to our life. Grasping how well Bush has done in our highest political body, the Supreme Court, consider how other presidents have done with Supreme Court appointments. The five justices who were in the majority were John Paul Stevens (appointed by Gerald Ford), Anthony Kennedy (appointed by Ronald Reagan), and David Souter (appointed by George H. Bush.) John Roberts and Sam Alito were part of the minority, along with Clarence Thomas (appointed by George H. Bush) and Antonin Scalia (appointed by Ronald Reagan.) If Ford or Reagan or Bush Sr. had appointed one more conservative justice to the Supreme Court, it would be a conservative court. Even Reagan only hit 33% on Supreme Court appointments - Sandra O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy were two of his three appointments - while President Bush has been perfect in his appointments.
Compared to What?
Judging President Bush involves comparing him to other presidents. Reagan was a better president than George W. Bush. But who, besides the Gipper, has been as good as Bush?
Bill Clinton ignored the threat of terrorism, squandered both the geopolitical hegemony and the treasure of Reagan's peace dividend, and sullied the office like no one before or since.
George H. Bush emptied the Reagan White House of conservatives, broke his tax pledge, appointed a solid Leftist like Souter to the Supreme Court, and failed to remove Saddam Hussein when the whole world would have been behind us.
Jimmy Carter brought us high employment, high inflation, high interest rates, no energy policy, the mad mullahs of Iran, a humiliating hostage crisis and a complete droop in national morale.
Gerald Ford appointed John Paul Stevens, another solid Leftist, to the Supreme Court, refused to meet with Solzhenitsyn, and fought Reagan for the nomination (because he thought Reagan was too dumb and too conservative - although Nelson Rockefeller as appointed vice president was fine.)
Nixon? How far do we have to go in American history to find an American president - leaving Reagan out - who was as good as George W. Bush? LBJ? Kennedy? Eisenhower? JFK? Truman? FDR? Hoover? We probably have to go back more than eighty years, to Reagan's favorite, Calvin Coolidge, to find someone equal to George W. Bush as president. One day Americans will look back on these eight years and thank God for President Bush.