I happened to be in front of the TV when they broke in for the President’s final press conference. Surprising myself, I watched it. Bush was so relaxed and confident that he did very well and I was left with the feeling that had he been able to articulate as well during 2002-2006 as he did in that press conference he could have done a far better job of explaining/defending his policies and actions. Don’t get me wrong, I disagreed with a lot of what President Bush did. But in the areas where we agreed I always wished that he could have done a better job of articulating, and therefore convincing.
The one point that he made that is completely true is that history will decide his legacy and the sum of his decisions and that nothing that anyone in the pundocracy says today will alter that. If Iraq is a relatively-prosperous, relatively-free, relatively-US-friendly place in 20 years then history may look on it somewhat differently than, say, the New York Times might (if they are still around). Recall that Harry Truman was a very unpopular president when he left office, but as many historians point out history compresses over time and only the results matter. Clearly Truman’s stock is bolstered by the very existence today of a free and prosperous South Korea and its contrast with its neighbor (and alternative) to the North and anyone with a wide view of history must acknowledge that a successful and friendly Iraq in the future will bode well for our 43rd President and his accomplishments.
I think that Bush 43’s legacy will be that he governed like a free-spending liberal, sacrificing some key principles in the interest of securing opposition support for his anti-terrorism policies, but that his controversial foreign policy actions ultimately stabilized and improved the middle east while preventing another attack on the US. At that point GWB’s legacy will depend on the observer’s own priorities and biases, which I suppose is normal and appropriate, as well as how bad this current economy gets.
I still feel very secure in the belief that he sucked a lot less than Kerry and Gore would have.