Enough With The Bush Nostalgia — He Was A Terrible President
Recently we’ve been seeing the mainstream media — and even some Democrats — express nostalgia over George W. Bush. This nostalgia stems from the fact that Bush didn’t demonize Muslims after 9/11 and didn’t scapegoat Hispanics and immigrants. Since he left the presidency, Bush has conducted himself with dignity.
The fact that Bush isn’t as bad as Trump doesn’t mean he was a good president. In fact, history will probably record Bush as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.
On the domestic front, Bush inherited a hard earned, ten year projected budget surplus in the amount of $5.5 trillion from Bill Clinton. In addition, middle class wages actually grew and poverty declined during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Bush and the Republicans in Congress chose to squander that surplus on two tax cuts that favored the wealthy, two wars and the Medicare Part D program. Former House Budget Chair John Kasich said the following about Bush and the Republicans in Congress: “They blew a $5 trillion surplus. The projected annual surpluses, were quickly spent, unfortunately by Republicans.”
As it turned out, Bush and the Republicans in Congress had nothing to show for their reckless spending spree. By the time Bush left office, the economy had collapsed and was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs per month. According to Ron Brownstein: “ While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked.”
Bush was the only two term president in American history to preside over a decline in middle class incomes during his two terms as president. Moreover, Bush had the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover.
Bush’s record on national security policy was equally disastrous. This failed Administration ignored several warnings of an imminent Al Qaeda attack in the run up to 9/11. On August 6, 2001, Bush’s daily intelligence briefing contained a memo entitled: “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” After Bush received this prescient briefing, he told the intelligence official: “ All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.”
After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush Administration allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora in 2001. After that blunder, Bush no longer made the killing or capture of OBL a high priority. Instead, on March 13, 2002, George W. Bush said of bin Laden, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” Subsequently, in July 2006, the Bush administration closed its unit that had been hunting bin Laden. In September 2006, Bush told Fred Barnes of Fox News that an “emphasis on bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.”
The signature Bush national security policy was the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In the run up to the war, Bush Administration officials told us we would be greeted as liberators, Iraqi oil would finance that country’s reconstruction and that U.S armed forces would find a vast arsenal of fearsome weapons of mass destruction.
The Bush Administration’s strategy to market the war to the American people in 2002–03 was deeply dishonest. Bush’s apologists have contended that the U.S. intelligence agencies simply made a series of honest mistakes. The reality is that according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report in 2008: “The Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”
Unfortunately, the Iraq War turned out to be one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in U.S. history. This war ground on for over eight years and according to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers $3 trillion. Sadly, 4,424 American heroes died in this conflict and an additional 109,000 Iraqi civilians perished.
By the time Bush left office in early 2009, he had an approval rating of 22% — equal to Nixon’s approval rating when he resigned in 1974. In contrast, Bill Clinton left office with a 65% approval rating and Barack Obama was at 60%.
Most Americans have now forgotten the Bush Administration was a miserable failure. You can’t find a Republican today who will admit that he/she once supported Bush. We Democrats failed to remind the voters that if the GOP were to return to power, the GOP would wreck the country again. The Bush Administration should have ruined the GOP’s reputation for decades — like the Hoover Administration.
This nostalgia over George W. Bush serves to boost the GOP since it whitewashes history. As Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote: “Progressives are much too willing to cede history to the other side. Legends about the past matter. ..The combination of lies, incompetence, and corruption that made the Iraq venture the moral and policy disaster it was should not be allowed to slip into the mists…There’s a reason conservatives constantly publish books and articles glorifying Harding and Coolidge while sliming FDR; there’s a reason they’re still running against Jimmy Carter; and there’s a reason they’re doing their best to rehabilitate W. And progressives need to fight back.”