Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Worst President Ever?

I’ve been hearing a lot of foolish talk lately about how George W. Bush is the worst president in the history of the United States. Most recently, I’ve seen the linked ABC.com posting about the John Edwards interview is which he suggested that Bush was “worse than Nixon”. For the most part I’ve chosen to ignore these statements as the fevered rantings of the left. No great fan of Mr. Bush myself, I must say that anyone who believes he is the worst president ever has either gone absolutely nuts, or wasn’t alive during some other recent administrations.

My problems with Bush stem from two areas critical for presidential leadership; Budget control over Congress’ natural impulse to spend, and leadership of the country. On these two points I think Bush has been awful and at best inconsistent, respectively.

Government tax receipts, particularly in the past two years of the Bush presidency have responded exceedingly well to the Bush tax cuts. Receipts are higher than they have ever been, a fact not at all shocking to supply siders, yet the budget deficit has ballooned beyond the point of acceptability. While I’m not going to go all Sully on you and proclaim the demise of the Union, or imminent financial collapse, the fact is that too much is being spent on programs that lock in future growth in spending and create structural problems with controlling spending. From my conservative viewpoint, Bush gets a “D” at best.

Leadership though is where Bush has been a particular failure. It was a while back, but Tom at the Functional Ambivalent made the accurate observation that Bush is a guy who is real good at starting things, but lacks the follow through and energy to finish the job. He was perfect for responding to the 9/11 attacks, and initiating our original response, but when it came to leading the country over the long term, and most importantly, responding to the attacks from the disloyal left, he simply didn’t have the desire.

This, more than anything else, is what accounts for both his low approval rating and the battle weariness of conservatives in this country. We were and remain ready to fight the good fight, but when day after day rolls by with no Whitehouse leadership in responding to some of the most outrageous of claims from the left, we wonder why we should post our capital for a man who has tired of risking his.

So we have the situation that we now find ourselves in; daily attacks from the left claiming that this president is the worst of all time, when nothing could be further from the truth. Ironic, since the left seems to see a lie in everyone’s statements but their own, don’t you think?

Still, let’s examine the charge and see if we can find any truth in these claims. We all know that President Bush was left with a country that was in pretty bad shape after eight years of the do-nothing Clinton Presidency. North Korea had been given money to build its nuclear program, China was becoming increasingly aggressive towards the U.S., a second intifada was underway against Israel, Iraq was shooting at our jets patrolling the “no-fly” zone, and Osama was attacking U.S. interests around the world with virtual impunity. The economy was in recession, the stock market had experienced one of its greatest bubbles (and subsequent crashes) ever, and unemployment was on the rise. People joked that whoever won the election between Gore and Bush would wind up the real loser considering the mess that needed to be cleaned up.

Sure enough, once Bush took over the trends that started under Clinton continued and Bush had to begin the process of repair. North Korea became increasingly aggressive, China shot down a U.S. Military plane and held it’s crew hostage, and then there was 9/11 – the attack instigated by the man Clinton wouldn’t go after.

After five years of Bush, things are by no means perfect, but are they better? I’d suggest the answer is a resounding yes. North Korea has been silenced and China is making less noise about attacking Taiwan. The Taliban is gone and Al Queda is on the run throughout the world. Since 9/11 there have been no attacks on American soil. The economy is as strong as it has ever been, with unemployment figures that are lower than the average achieved in the Clinton administration, and stock market values that reflect reality. Iraq is no longer run by a madman who harbors terrorists and shoots at our pilots, but instead is a country experimenting with democracy and fumbling its way toward a better future as is Afghanistan.

Have there been problems along the way? Without question. There are those who have issues with the tactical plan for securing Iraq, but except for a select few, not many of these folks seem to have any solid ideas beyond the old, “we need more troops” canard. Most amusingly, some the most vociferous of critics, including our boy Andy, have never even bothered to take a trip to the country and take a look at the situation on the ground for themselves!

I’ve run on long enough here, so I won’t bore you with some of the details of the truly bad presidencies of my lifetime, but trust me; Bush doesn’t even qualify for the worst of the past 40 years. Allow me to remind you of some of the low points; Bay of Pigs, Berlin Wall, Cuban Missile Crisis, Gulf of Tompkin, Wage and Price Controls, Whip Inflation Now (WIN), Iran Hostage Crisis, “A Great Malaise”, Appeasement, Afghanistan.

Come to think of it, George Bush is actually one of the better Presidents.

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