I recently conversed with a Democratic friend of mine – an intelligent, very politically active person. This person had a deep familiarity with politics; she knew the political events of the past few years like the back of her hand.
The conversation turned to Bush-bashing, about how President George W. Bush had been absolutely terrible for the country. My friend listed failure after failure after failure, ranging from the Iraq War to the Terri Schiavo case to Hurricane Katrina. Then I asked her what the former president had done right. Surely, in his eight long years, the president had done something good for us.
Although this person could name dozens of things Mr. Bush did wrong, she could not answer my question. Her opinion, like those of many others I have talked with, was that the best thing Mr. Bush ever did was to give Democrats control of Washington.
This trend does not limit itself to Democrats. In eight years, many Republicans will likewise be unable to name a single accomplishment of President Barack Obama.
To dispute both veins of thought, I have thought of five things President George W. Bush did that helped the country. Here they are:
#1 – Response to the 2008 economic crisis: The president’s highly qualified appointees worked furiously (and successfully) to prevent another Great Depression. Mr. Bush’s bail-out bill, moreover, helped restore confidence to an imploding financial system.
#2 – Initial response to 9/11: Widely admired for uniting the nation during a time of crisis, Mr. Bush deserves credit for his initial actions after 9/11. Americans, Democratic and Republican, approved of the president’s response (there was a reason his approval rating reached the low 90s during those first few months).
#3 – Iraq surge: The final gamble of a dying presidency, the Iraq surge constituted an unmitigated success. By effectively lowering violence and instability in Iraq, it turned a disaster into something Republicans could even campaign on.
#4 – NCLB: This bill aimed to restore accountability into the nation’s school system. While far from perfect, it succeeded in moderately improving elementary school performance throughout the nation.
#5: Hispanic outreach: Mr. Bush, against the more xenophobic elements of his party, actively sought the support of the Hispanic community. He visited Mexico early and supported sensible immigration reform, among other positive initiatives.