With the Bush administration winding down, it’s time to take stock of what went right and what went wrong. The latter list would take more bits than WordPress allows, but we can touch on the key lowlights:
Illegal Spying on Americans
Politicization of Non-Partisan Offices
And so on.
But what did Bush get right?
1) Minority Appointments. Without discussion and as a simple matter of fact, Bush broke down serious barriers in the executive branch by appointing Colin Powell, Condi Rice, and Alberto Gonzales to the key positions of Secretary of State, National Security Adviser (and SoS), and Attorney General, respectively. Their performance was mixed, to put it mildly, but by making these appointments, Bush validated the simple truth that race is irrelevant and that minorities can hold the highest offices in America.
2) Immigration Policy. To his credit, Bush stood up against the strong xenophobic character of his party and came out with a sensible and realistic plan for dealing with illegal immigrants. By proposing strong border control and a pathway for illegals already here to become legal, he bucked the Republican Party at serious cost to his popularity. It was the right thing to do, and he did it.
3) Fighting AIDS in Africa. Bush tripled aid to Africa to combat HIV/AIDS with the goal of caring for and treating HIV-infected adults and children, and preventing the further spread of this deadly virus. This was a Christian act by a self-professed Christian man who rarely acts in accordance with the principles of Christ. Better once than never.
4) The Surge: I’ve been basically writing about this all week. The surge worked. Bush championed it in the face of severe pressure to adopt the Baker-Hamilton report. Five plus years after invading Iraq, we’ve now created a stable enough environment that the Iraqis want us out by 2010. The fact is, the surge (with Petraeus’s strategy and good luck) has put us in a position that had previously been unthinkable while Bush was in office…withdrawal.
5) Liberal Democracy. The idea was right. The strategy and tactics were wrong. Bush has advocated for the spread of liberal democracy throughout the world and committed America to a policy of backing it up at gunpoint. Admittedly, this was a post-WMD justification for Iraq, but he is still right about the idea (if horribly wrong about carrying it out). I don’t care what you say about cultural differences precluding certain kinds of freedom; freedom of speech and religion, privacy, universal suffrage, etc., are inherent human rights. America must embody that truth and stand up for it around the world.
That’s about it. Clearly, if we could do it over again, Bush would never have been president and the world would likely be a much better place. But we are where we are. Let’s take whatever good we can from the biggest lemon in our country’s history and make lemonade.