With the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the time has apparently come for a preliminary reassessment of the Bush presidency. Looking back from the perspective of a few years, I would argue:
-- He conducted this nation's foreign policy as if the Texas bluster that had intimidated his fellow preppies at Andover and Yale would suffice on the international stage and bring allies along in his wake. It did not. He gave the cowboy caricature life, with predictably bad results.
-- Ignoring advice from his father and others, and in over his head in the days right after 9/11, he allowed Vice President Dick Cheney to play to his weakness for macho posturing. Cheney and others manipulated him into the invasion of a country that posed no threat to the United States., with disastrous results and the unnecessary loss of more than 4,000 American lives. By his second term, Bush gave every sign of understanding just how big a mistake that had been, but at that point all he could do was isolate Cheney and try to mitigate the damage done.
-- He inherited a federal budget that was at or near balance when he took office, and when he left office the CBO was projecting a deficit of $1.3 trillion. Part of that was due to an unforeseen economic failure, but it was compounded by decisions to fight two major wars while slashing government revenue and creating a major new social program in Medicare Part D. This country had never before slashed taxes in time of war. It didn't take a Harvard MBA to know what that would produce.
-- While it is too much to blame Bush for the economic collapse that came at the end of his second term, it is also true that his policies did not prevent it. The same can be said of the attacks of Sept. 11. I don't think anybody can fairly say that Bush should have prevented them. You can only say that he didn't.
-- On the positive side of the ledger, I never doubted that President Bush did what he honestly thought right for the country. He ran an administration that for the most part was free of corruption. He took admirable strides to fend off rising anti-Muslim sentiment, undercutting those who might have admired the WWII Japanese-American internment route. When the economic collapse came, his administration responded quickly at a time of deep confusion and panic. Others have argued that Bush merely stood aside and let the economic experts in his administration take the lead, but sometimes that's what a leader does. Like his father, he has conducted himself with grace in his post-presidential life.
And those paintings are pretty cool!