Today is the day the momentous presidency of President George W. Bush comes to an end. During Bush’s tenure, he has been endlessly mocked, maligned, accused as a criminal and a villain. Even his very life was threatened when a live grenade appeared near where he spoke in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2005. The treatment this country – and the world – has given to President Bush is utterly shameful. It is impossible to agree on all topics to the last detail with anyone, but when a leader demonstrates great courage despite many obstacles to fight for America, justice calls for the proper respect and recognition to be given.
The world was falsely perceived as safe when Bush took office, coinciding with waning economic growth from unbelievable advances in technology, a world where issues like California’s rolling blackouts adorned headlines. Bush corrected many wrongs wrought by the Clinton years. President Bush phased in tax cuts and restored American sovereignty by opting out of Clinton’s Kyoto Protocol ambitions.
During Bush’s tenure in office, the nation no longer lived in a false sense of security as the greatest attack in the U.S., at least since Pearl Harbor, occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. The inaction toward gathering threats to America during the Clinton era would finally cease as President Bush lead military force to destroy the safe havens that the Islamic supremacists who perpetrated 9/11, Al Qaeda, had under the Taliban in Afghanistan.
During the Clinton years, U.S. intelligence agencies were prohibited from collaborating with other agencies committed to America’s safety. The Patriot Act ended this failure in intelligence gathering once Bush signed it and would have allowed the FBI, as Debra Burlingame states in a Jan. 30, 2006 column in the Wall Street Journal, to prevent Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi from flying one of the planes into the Pentagon on 9/11 if it had been signed before that day.
Given the perils that became evident in allowing “threats to fully materialize,” as with 9/11, President Bush rightly pressed the international community to, as the U.S., cease being a paper tiger. Saddam Hussein was allowed to deny and deceive U.N. weapons inspectors and defied 17 U.N. resolutions to account for his weapons programs. After 12 years of gathering threats after the Gulf War, President Bush refused to allow America’s security to be dependent on the U.N. Security Council, bringing consequences to unanswered demands. America is safer with an enemy like Saddam Hussein dead and no longer able to develop weapons with yellowcake for nuclear enrichment that was found in Iraq, as the Associate Press reported July 5, 2008, in addition to collaborating with Al Qaeda operatives such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Furthermore, Moammar Qaddafi was successfully deterred from continuing Libya’s nuclear weapons program, which the LA Times reported Nov. 28, 2004 was involved with and gave new information on Abdul Qadeer Khan’s nuclear proliferation network to western authorities, all because Bush took corrective action in Iraq.
In 2003, Bush triumphed in economic policy, passing tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. This resulted in unemployment falling from 6.3% in June 2003 to 4.4% in October 2006, as mentioned in a Wall Street Journal editorial Jan. 17. The federal deficit also decreased to around $350 billion from $412 billion as government revenues increased 13.6% for the first seven months of fiscal year 2005 from the year before, another Wall Street Journal editorial reported on May 23, 2005.
Although Bush has been judged with great fault for the handling of Hurricane Katrina relief failures, the local and state governments that are charged with the most responsibility for handling such crisis are at most to blame. As Bob Williams wrote in the Wall Street Journal Sept. 7, 2005, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin failed to coordinate relief efforts with the state emergency systems. The governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, in turn, failed to request the specific aide that was needed from the federal government (FEMA) in a timely manner. As Williams pointed out, the federal government cannot intervene in state emergency disasters until it is requested for them to do so in a specific capacity.
Bush nominated sound candidates to the judiciary: John Roberts and Samuel Alito, who were both approved, contributed to strict constructionist positions to defend and uphold the Constitution, such as their contribution to overturning Washington D.C.’s unconstitutional ban on hand guns for home self-defense last summer. Bush further defended the Second Amendment by refusing to renew the ban on assault weapons in 2004.
Bush corrected initial Iraq war strategy mistakes, increasing troop levels with the Gen. Patraeus-led surge, despite overwhelming pressures to surrender and hence dangerously risk American security to Al Qaeda in Iraq. Because of Bush’s courage as commander-in-chief, U.S. troop casualties are at war lows, July 2008 having the least amount of casualties.
Many have made an occupation of maliciously belittling and demonizing President Bush. Through the endless disregard for his administration, which he hardly defended against, history has a chance to exonerate Bush more than he ever defended himself, whereby his decisions are viewed through the necessities of the era and not special interests. Until then, on this last day of his duty, I thank President Bush for his service, and may God bless this misunderstood 43rd president of the United States of America.
Stephen Ontko is a senior economics major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]