Now that Barack Obama has been selected as president-elect, one begins to ponder how George W. Bush will be remembered. The public and historians alike would be remiss to discount Bush’s presidency as a failure. Bush may not be regarded as the best president, but he should not be looked upon as the worst.
That Bush distanced himself from Sen. John McCain at Republican rallies signifies Bush’s recognition of public opinion. Bush is well aware of how he is perceived by the public and was wise enough not to grandstand next to McCain.
Before rushing to judgment on his legacy, consider the fire into which Bush leapt when he was sworn in Jan. 20, 2001. According to the Chicago Tribune, the previous administration ignored the warning signs that hinted at unrest abroad. Before Bush’s first year in office was over, Bush was forced to deal with the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush could not have precipitated the aggressive onslaught by terrorists, as he had been in office for a mere eight months.
Bush’s predecessor ignored the World Trade Center bombing in late February 1993 as well as Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind this admitted terror attack. Though Bill Clinton vowed to avenge the attacks a week later, he neglected to take action. His words paid lip service to an American public in need of defense. Yousef made demands on the government and promised further damage to American landmarks if appropriate action was not taken. Yousef’s demands were disregarded and he acted as a conspirator in future attacks against the United States.
Bush inherited a country in disarray. On the surface, the U.S. appeared prosperous and devoid of international threats. Things appeared rosy because the Clinton administration did a masterful job of masking any negative viewpoints.
Clinton demonstrated how a well-spoken president could avert criticism while being negligent. Clinton won the confidence of an American people who cared little about issues that seemed distant. America was experiencing a bull-market economy and citizens were deceived by the illusion of peace Clinton orchestrated.
Another event that forced Bush to take action just as his presidency was in its infancy was the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000. Three months before Bush took office, Osama bin Laden and his co-conspirators attacked and killed 17 sailors. Rather than attack the terrorist infrastructure, Clinton and his cabinet opposed a strike on terrorists pending an investigation. According to cnnnews.com, Clinton’s defense secretary, William Cohen, said the attack “was not sufficiently provocative.” Failure to act on the initial World Trade Center bombing and utter disregard for an overseas attack on U.S. soldiers prompted a downward spiral.
Though the previous administration left a lot of baggage for Bush, he was not entirely proficient in his presidency. Bush lacked the personality that enabled Clinton to be remembered fondly. However, instead of shying from difficult decisions, Bush chose to confront challenges directly. He deserves credit for addressing pertinent issues that others had ignored. Bush has gone against the grain on many issues and changed the tone of the White House. He has restored honor and dignity to the presidency by never compromising his morality or character.
There are opponents of Bush who point to his low approval rating as an indication of the job he has done. The rating is based on how the public perceives Bush. If the public has formulated a perception of Bush, it is premature. It will take years to assess Bush’s presidency. Maybe a generation will pass before an accurate characterization can be made.
But I must wonder, when the economy rebounds, just as it did in the aftermath of 9/11, will Obama receive full marks for a cyclical market? People say Obama is destined for success, but I wonder if it will be as a result of everything getting back together after a downward spiral or if it will be because of his presidency. Damage caused by terrorism has been mitigated and the world economy is bound to recover. Obama is almost certain to meet with success just as Bush was certainly thrown into disaster.
Ryan Blaney is a senior majoring in English.