Q&A Friday #34: What’s Your Opinion Of The Bush Presidency

Question: “I’d seriously like to know your honest opinion of the Bush presidency. Without any partisan cheerleading. Just as background, I joined the Republican Party while in my mid-twenties because I believed so strongly in Reagan’s vision of limited government. Yet I feel that, with the exception of foreign policy, the Bush administration has been largely adrift and reactive rather than proactive. I agreed with him on Kyoto and taxes but feel he has abandoned traditional conservative causes when it comes to government regulation (Sarbanes-Oxley, McCain-Feingold), education (NCLB), border security, immigration, entitlements (Medicare), and a host of other issues. I applaud his Federal and Supreme Court appointments yet he has disappointed me on so many other fronts. Compassionate conservatism strikes me as big government liberalism in disguise, something Reagan would have abhored. Anyway, I’m just curious on your take. Sorry for the long post.” — ajmurray

Answer: When it comes to national security, foreign policy, and the war on terror, I’d give Bush an “A.” He did an amazing job in Afghanistan, it’s practically miraculous that there hasn’t been another terrorist attack in America since 9/11, and even though Iraq hasn’t been easy, Bush was right to go in and has handled it correctly for the most part. We’ll still have to see how things turn out with nukes in North Korea and Iran, but Bush has the potential to be one of the greatest Presidents in American history on the foreign policy front, especially if Democracy takes off in the Middle-East.

On the other hand, when it comes to the domestic front, the Bush Administration has been a real mixed bag. For example, when it comes to taxes, and the courts (other than the Miers hiccup), Bush has been fantastic. He has also been a real friend to social conservatives. Then again, when it comes to spending, immigration, the small government issue and the godawful Medicare Prescription Drug program among other things, Bush has really blown it.

I think what it comes down to is that Bush is not a movement conservative per se. In fact, at times the Bush Administration comes across as unnecessarily antagonistic towards his own base. In other words, he’s not a Reaganite like much of his base; he’s his father’s son.

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So am I very, very disappointed with some of the stands Bush has taken on important domestic issues? Yes, but overall, I think he’s a significantly better than average President despite his flaws. Some people may think that’s rating him too high, especially since so many people are down on him right now, but look back over the last century or so and compare W. to his predecessors. If I had to rate Bush against the other Republican Presidents during that time period, I’d currently stick him in the three slot, after Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt, just ahead of Eisenhower.

When it comes to Presidents, you just have to take the good with the bad, and understand that all of them, including Bush, have feet of clay.

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