I’m not the world’s biggest fan of George W. Bush, for all the conventionally conservative reasons and those Jeremy Lott discusses on the main site today. The bargain conservatives cut with him is that he’d probably be soft on spending, immigration, racial preferences, and other issues but would make up for it on judges, Social Security reform, tax cuts, and national security after 9/11.
That’s why Harriet Miers, Medicare Part D, and both amnesty and the Dubai Ports World deal were the issues that elicited the most conservative opposition to Bush: he seemed to be caving in the areas where he was presumed rock solid. Katrina had the same impact on swing voters: Even if the criticism was overstated and let (mostly Democratic) state and local officials off the hook for their greater incompetence, federal flat-footedness made people wonder if the government really had learned the proper 9/11 preparedness lessons (even if we were safe in the years following the 9/11 murders themselves).
I don’t think he’s a bad man and believe even some of his shortcomings were due to his basic decency, not his mendacity or worse. Bush made the right calls on taxes, embryonic stem-cell research, Roberts and Alito, and Petraeus (if not the Iraq adventure itself). But he made some wrong judgments too, for which future generations will be paying in tax dollars and worse for a long time to come.
But most of all, the legacy of Bush is making the election of Barack Obama — a freshman Illinois senator who was in the state senate when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers and Pentagon — possible. Whatever the failings of the incoming president, he would not be in the White House were it not for the failures of the outgoing president. Best wishes to both of them.