Remembering President Bush

As we await the state of the union address–which I suspect hardly anyone will watch–I’m struck by how EVERYONE, including conservatives, and including people who used to defend him, are piling on President Bush. Peggy Noonan, for instance, is saying that it wouldn’t be Huckabee or McCain whose nomination would destroy the Republican party, as Rush Limbaugh says; rather, President Bush has ALREADY destroyed it. Meanwhile, a liberal group is raising money to make sure that his approval ratings do not go up before he leaves office! Why spend money to trash someone who is already leaving office?Bill Kristol, though, defends the president and his reputation. What do you think?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fw

    There needs to be some distance timewise to properly evaluate the significance of a presidency.

    I would think at a minimum there were opportunities squandered. Americans and the world were ready to be called to common sacrifice after 9/11.

    Instead the event seemed to be used to try to consolidate power. sad.

  • fw

    There needs to be some distance timewise to properly evaluate the significance of a presidency.

    I would think at a minimum there were opportunities squandered. Americans and the world were ready to be called to common sacrifice after 9/11.

    Instead the event seemed to be used to try to consolidate power. sad.

  • Joe

    I agree that time is necessary. I am conflicted right now. I saw so many opportunities lost and just plain mistakes made that I often feel like he betrayed an entire movement. On the other hand, there are somethings that I think President Bush did very well. Time is necessary.

  • Joe

    I agree that time is necessary. I am conflicted right now. I saw so many opportunities lost and just plain mistakes made that I often feel like he betrayed an entire movement. On the other hand, there are somethings that I think President Bush did very well. Time is necessary.

  • organshoes

    Now there’s a fairy tale, that the world was ready to join our fight against terror after 9/11, but we (Bush) squandered it.
    So many allies turned tail and ran, or while helping in some areas, took the low rhetorical road against us, and only because they could, or because it served their purposes with their own populations.
    I’m always turned off by both those arguments: that the war on terror has cost us allies and standing, and that Bush’s only interest was in power or depriving his own fellow citizens of their rights. I don’t see our prisons being turned into gulags; I see more denial of rights in liberal academia than in American courts. And I don’t see that our former allies took any stand against us on prinicple, but for expediency’s sake, or out of cowardice against their own Islamic populations, or for their own self-interest, etc.
    This idea that the world demonstrates character in standing against us is shallow, and has never had anythig like proof, other than to cite Bush’s cowboy ways. I thought Americans liked cowboys. Not any more, I guess.
    Bush’s failure is mostly one of articulation. Though, as a parent who survived raising a teenage son without a father, I sort of identify with repeating–again and again–we’re doing this because it’s right, we’re doing this because it’s right, yada-yada. I too have turned blue in the face, trying to counter adolescent petulance and inconstancy with reason.

  • organshoes

    Now there’s a fairy tale, that the world was ready to join our fight against terror after 9/11, but we (Bush) squandered it.
    So many allies turned tail and ran, or while helping in some areas, took the low rhetorical road against us, and only because they could, or because it served their purposes with their own populations.
    I’m always turned off by both those arguments: that the war on terror has cost us allies and standing, and that Bush’s only interest was in power or depriving his own fellow citizens of their rights. I don’t see our prisons being turned into gulags; I see more denial of rights in liberal academia than in American courts. And I don’t see that our former allies took any stand against us on prinicple, but for expediency’s sake, or out of cowardice against their own Islamic populations, or for their own self-interest, etc.
    This idea that the world demonstrates character in standing against us is shallow, and has never had anythig like proof, other than to cite Bush’s cowboy ways. I thought Americans liked cowboys. Not any more, I guess.
    Bush’s failure is mostly one of articulation. Though, as a parent who survived raising a teenage son without a father, I sort of identify with repeating–again and again–we’re doing this because it’s right, we’re doing this because it’s right, yada-yada. I too have turned blue in the face, trying to counter adolescent petulance and inconstancy with reason.

  • Richard Lewer

    Abraham Lincoln had something to say about being right in spite of popular opinion. It is all about how it comes out in the end.

  • Richard Lewer

    Abraham Lincoln had something to say about being right in spite of popular opinion. It is all about how it comes out in the end.

  • Jenna

    It would’ve been hard for any president to live up to the glowing rhetoric with which Peggy Noonan used to describe Mr. Bush post 9/11. (There used to be an archive of her past columns at opinionjournal.com; you might check them out, if you’re interested). I think she’s trying to compensate now for going overboard in the past.

    For the short term, I give him high marks for some policies (tax cuts, security on the home front) and low marks for others (spending, immigration). As for the long term, I agree with the posters above that time will tell.

    I don’t believe anyone can denigrate the dignity and personal rectitude with which he’s conducted the office. The man has displayed at all times great respect for the presidency and what it stands for. Contrasted with the moral squalor of the preceding administration, that’s saying a lot.

  • Jenna

    It would’ve been hard for any president to live up to the glowing rhetoric with which Peggy Noonan used to describe Mr. Bush post 9/11. (There used to be an archive of her past columns at opinionjournal.com; you might check them out, if you’re interested). I think she’s trying to compensate now for going overboard in the past.

    For the short term, I give him high marks for some policies (tax cuts, security on the home front) and low marks for others (spending, immigration). As for the long term, I agree with the posters above that time will tell.

    I don’t believe anyone can denigrate the dignity and personal rectitude with which he’s conducted the office. The man has displayed at all times great respect for the presidency and what it stands for. Contrasted with the moral squalor of the preceding administration, that’s saying a lot.

  • organshoes

    Well said, Jenna.
    Peggy Noonan’s glowing rhetoric often reminds me of Obama’s: a lot of imagery that says…something. She’s often the vacuous, sanctimonious conservative, over-stating the conservative cause and case.
    I’ve quit reading her for the most part. It doesn’t help having heard her speak, and mentally adding her actual voice to what she writes.
    I know-that’s harsh.
    And I thoroughly agree with Jenna on Pres. Bush’s personal conduct as President: more dignified than that of Bush-the-Candidate from time to time, you might recall. He should be remembered as a role model for future Presidents, in his manner and his manners towards his political adversaries, his respect for the military, for the office he occupies. He’s not used his office for anything other than for that for which it was intended, Constitutionally speaking, or so it appears.
    It’ll be interesting to see how his final pardons shake out, as well as his retirement. I have a feeling he’ll go quietly and privately home.

  • organshoes

    Well said, Jenna.
    Peggy Noonan’s glowing rhetoric often reminds me of Obama’s: a lot of imagery that says…something. She’s often the vacuous, sanctimonious conservative, over-stating the conservative cause and case.
    I’ve quit reading her for the most part. It doesn’t help having heard her speak, and mentally adding her actual voice to what she writes.
    I know-that’s harsh.
    And I thoroughly agree with Jenna on Pres. Bush’s personal conduct as President: more dignified than that of Bush-the-Candidate from time to time, you might recall. He should be remembered as a role model for future Presidents, in his manner and his manners towards his political adversaries, his respect for the military, for the office he occupies. He’s not used his office for anything other than for that for which it was intended, Constitutionally speaking, or so it appears.
    It’ll be interesting to see how his final pardons shake out, as well as his retirement. I have a feeling he’ll go quietly and privately home.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    I would not change either vote I gave to President Bush.

    I used to drive around with a bumper sticker on my truck that looked like a Texas license plate and said “Dubya” on it. I put it on mostly just to irritate liberals.

    I have peeled it off in frustration over his seeming inability to articulate why we are at war and why we still need to be, that and Harriet Miers. I am still a believer in the Bush Doctrine, but I do not believe he is.

    Still, Bush brought honor back to the White House. For that, I am thankful. He has also kept us safe since 9/11 (how many thought that likely on 9/12?). He has done (for the most part) exactly what he said he would do when he came into office. I think I still know who he is and what he stands for, even if I do not always agree with it.

    At times, he has been a great President. For the most part, he has been a competent one (though even that sentiment is often debated) that has made some mistakes.

    In a nutshell, I am happy with my vote for three reasons: 9/11, Roberts, and Alito.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    I would not change either vote I gave to President Bush.

    I used to drive around with a bumper sticker on my truck that looked like a Texas license plate and said “Dubya” on it. I put it on mostly just to irritate liberals.

    I have peeled it off in frustration over his seeming inability to articulate why we are at war and why we still need to be, that and Harriet Miers. I am still a believer in the Bush Doctrine, but I do not believe he is.

    Still, Bush brought honor back to the White House. For that, I am thankful. He has also kept us safe since 9/11 (how many thought that likely on 9/12?). He has done (for the most part) exactly what he said he would do when he came into office. I think I still know who he is and what he stands for, even if I do not always agree with it.

    At times, he has been a great President. For the most part, he has been a competent one (though even that sentiment is often debated) that has made some mistakes.

    In a nutshell, I am happy with my vote for three reasons: 9/11, Roberts, and Alito.

  • S Bauer

    What a glowing legacy for a presidency – he kept the dignity of the office – while the state of the nation is like a china shop after the bull has exited. And since, Republican though I am, I have always thought Bush at his best meets the qualifications of dog catcher and I never supported him or his cabal that he put together to get him into the White House by whatever means necessary. So no great turnaround for me. But why the surprise at Noonan, et al? The most common activity of pundits and politicians is killing the wounded.

  • S Bauer

    What a glowing legacy for a presidency – he kept the dignity of the office – while the state of the nation is like a china shop after the bull has exited. And since, Republican though I am, I have always thought Bush at his best meets the qualifications of dog catcher and I never supported him or his cabal that he put together to get him into the White House by whatever means necessary. So no great turnaround for me. But why the surprise at Noonan, et al? The most common activity of pundits and politicians is killing the wounded.

  • Don S

    Bravo, Andy. I, too, am happy with the votes I cast for Bush. He is an honorable man who has a genuine faith in Christ, and he delivered pretty much what he said he would.

    The disappointments we all have in George W. Bush are ones we knew we would have going in. Who didn’t cringe while watching him debate Al Gore in 2000, hoping he wouldn’t misspeak? We always knew he wasn’t articulate. He also campaigned as a “compassionate conservative” from day one, and those of us who are true conservatives knew that this was likely to be problematic.

    Though I have been frustrated by much of what has transpired during the last seven years, I don’t think Bush in any way betrayed us — he gave us what he said he would. The Republican congress disappointed me much more. The media has been a disgrace — it is amazing that Bush has stood up as well as he has under its withering fire, and I credit that totally to his trust in his Savior.

    As for Peggy Noonan, her day with Ronald Reagan was inspirational, but it is done.

  • Don S

    Bravo, Andy. I, too, am happy with the votes I cast for Bush. He is an honorable man who has a genuine faith in Christ, and he delivered pretty much what he said he would.

    The disappointments we all have in George W. Bush are ones we knew we would have going in. Who didn’t cringe while watching him debate Al Gore in 2000, hoping he wouldn’t misspeak? We always knew he wasn’t articulate. He also campaigned as a “compassionate conservative” from day one, and those of us who are true conservatives knew that this was likely to be problematic.

    Though I have been frustrated by much of what has transpired during the last seven years, I don’t think Bush in any way betrayed us — he gave us what he said he would. The Republican congress disappointed me much more. The media has been a disgrace — it is amazing that Bush has stood up as well as he has under its withering fire, and I credit that totally to his trust in his Savior.

    As for Peggy Noonan, her day with Ronald Reagan was inspirational, but it is done.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    There is no doubt that in the short run Bush will be judged harshly. Whether he will be judged upon facts is another matter. It is very difficult in the climate of hate we have now to ascertain what he knew and why he took the actions he took. Part of his legacy will be that he was inarticulate and incommunicative. And that is something the American public has no patience with. However, I remember what a clumsy communicator Jimmy Carter was (Remember his trip to Mexico? Owww). I remember how the media took him apart for it. But it isn’t Jimmy Carter’s lack of grasp of the English language that we remember. We remember a lousy economy and his facile ineptness. We may also remember a foreign policy characterized by bully pulpit preaching (in a good cause) but an unwillingness to lead.
    It is also noteworthy that a president’s legacy is somewhat formed by who came before him and who came after.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    There is no doubt that in the short run Bush will be judged harshly. Whether he will be judged upon facts is another matter. It is very difficult in the climate of hate we have now to ascertain what he knew and why he took the actions he took. Part of his legacy will be that he was inarticulate and incommunicative. And that is something the American public has no patience with. However, I remember what a clumsy communicator Jimmy Carter was (Remember his trip to Mexico? Owww). I remember how the media took him apart for it. But it isn’t Jimmy Carter’s lack of grasp of the English language that we remember. We remember a lousy economy and his facile ineptness. We may also remember a foreign policy characterized by bully pulpit preaching (in a good cause) but an unwillingness to lead.
    It is also noteworthy that a president’s legacy is somewhat formed by who came before him and who came after.

  • Bror Erickson

    I often marvel that the democrats were able to find on two different occasions, less articulate men to run against Bush. I think they had to work harder at that then the jocky of the faster horse in a fixed race.
    That said, I think history will probably be kinder to him then one would suspect. I appreciate the man.

  • Bror Erickson

    I often marvel that the democrats were able to find on two different occasions, less articulate men to run against Bush. I think they had to work harder at that then the jocky of the faster horse in a fixed race.
    That said, I think history will probably be kinder to him then one would suspect. I appreciate the man.

  • kerner

    Peggy Noonan is not condemning Bush the president. She’s complaining about Bush the Leader of the conservative movement. She says he couldn’t hold the various components of the conservative coalition together, and she has a point. Many of the things Bush has done have badly disappointed one or another conservative constituency.

    1.) A lot of conservatives are not enthusiastic about nation building, and Bush said he was against it in 2000. Then came 9/11 and he reversed course. I understand why he changed his mind, but I don’t think he thought through the details very well. Only now are we beginning to see some success.

    2.) I have always thought that being a conservative meant being for smaller government. A lot of conservatives agree with me on this. One of the reasons the Republican Party is having this distructive internal conflict is that the Republicans, once they got executive and legislative power, did not reduce the size and influence of government. Rather, government expanded greatly under Bush’s watch. “Conservative” Republicans bellied right up to the trough like democrats. Bush could have vetoed spending bills or entitlement bills, but he never considered it. Now Republicans look like the deficit spenders.

    3.) Whatever you think of the immigration issue, Bush let it get out of control (well, maybe it was out of control when he got into office, but he did nothing to bring it back under control). I don’t think immigration would be such a divisive issue among Republicans if Bush had not looked the other way at the wide spread lawbreaking for the first 5 years of his administration. The fact is that we now have a “black market” system of immigrant labor in this country. One can argue, as I do, that the laws should have been changed long ago to make more immigration legal (thus eliminating the demand for black market labor), or you can argue that enforcement is the only answer. But whatever you think, Bush ignored the issue for way too long, and now there’s a huge fight among conservatives over it.

    4.) Social conservatives (mostly Christians) have always been a major part of the conservative coalition (one leg of the 3 legged stool). Pursuing social conservative goals without running afoul of small government conservative values is a real study in 2 kindom theology, and also very difficult. In a lot of ways I think Bush did a great deal of good. There are real limits on what the federal government can do about these kinds of issues. Mostly, the President can appoint good judges (which Bush has done), and promote pro-life regulations through executive orders (which he has also done). But I also think that there is a disconnect between social conservatives and economic/small government conservatives that wasn’t there before (which is why Huckabee is a candidate). I’m not sure what Bush could have done to keep these 2 groups on better terms (I have some ideas, but I don’t know whether they would have worked), but the fact is that there is a division that conservatives would be better off without.

    I don’t know whether it’s fair to lay all of this at Bush’s feet. Maybe some of it more than other parts of it. But if Peggy Noonan is saying that the divisions in the Republican Party didn’t just pop up overnight and that George Bush failed to prevent them, she’s right.

  • kerner

    Peggy Noonan is not condemning Bush the president. She’s complaining about Bush the Leader of the conservative movement. She says he couldn’t hold the various components of the conservative coalition together, and she has a point. Many of the things Bush has done have badly disappointed one or another conservative constituency.

    1.) A lot of conservatives are not enthusiastic about nation building, and Bush said he was against it in 2000. Then came 9/11 and he reversed course. I understand why he changed his mind, but I don’t think he thought through the details very well. Only now are we beginning to see some success.

    2.) I have always thought that being a conservative meant being for smaller government. A lot of conservatives agree with me on this. One of the reasons the Republican Party is having this distructive internal conflict is that the Republicans, once they got executive and legislative power, did not reduce the size and influence of government. Rather, government expanded greatly under Bush’s watch. “Conservative” Republicans bellied right up to the trough like democrats. Bush could have vetoed spending bills or entitlement bills, but he never considered it. Now Republicans look like the deficit spenders.

    3.) Whatever you think of the immigration issue, Bush let it get out of control (well, maybe it was out of control when he got into office, but he did nothing to bring it back under control). I don’t think immigration would be such a divisive issue among Republicans if Bush had not looked the other way at the wide spread lawbreaking for the first 5 years of his administration. The fact is that we now have a “black market” system of immigrant labor in this country. One can argue, as I do, that the laws should have been changed long ago to make more immigration legal (thus eliminating the demand for black market labor), or you can argue that enforcement is the only answer. But whatever you think, Bush ignored the issue for way too long, and now there’s a huge fight among conservatives over it.

    4.) Social conservatives (mostly Christians) have always been a major part of the conservative coalition (one leg of the 3 legged stool). Pursuing social conservative goals without running afoul of small government conservative values is a real study in 2 kindom theology, and also very difficult. In a lot of ways I think Bush did a great deal of good. There are real limits on what the federal government can do about these kinds of issues. Mostly, the President can appoint good judges (which Bush has done), and promote pro-life regulations through executive orders (which he has also done). But I also think that there is a disconnect between social conservatives and economic/small government conservatives that wasn’t there before (which is why Huckabee is a candidate). I’m not sure what Bush could have done to keep these 2 groups on better terms (I have some ideas, but I don’t know whether they would have worked), but the fact is that there is a division that conservatives would be better off without.

    I don’t know whether it’s fair to lay all of this at Bush’s feet. Maybe some of it more than other parts of it. But if Peggy Noonan is saying that the divisions in the Republican Party didn’t just pop up overnight and that George Bush failed to prevent them, she’s right.

  • fw

    I think his real legacy will be the erosion of constitutional checks and balances on governmental power. he radically expanded the power of government. radical is the exactly right word. If some truly bad men or women get in control of our government, these new powers will be fully exercised.

    Bush stood for the exact opposite of limited government.

    I am rather surprised at this being true.

    but it is in every sense (expansion of bureaucracy and the budget and erosion of states rights, unfunded mandates, and expansion of surveilance powers and erosion of constitutional checks) compared with ANY administration before him . amazingly including the administration of FDR.

    It does appear that roberts and alioto will not be conservative. conservative justices honor established precedent. precident seems to be often ignored.

    the democratic congress is fully complicit, so this is far from a partisan comment.

  • fw

    I think his real legacy will be the erosion of constitutional checks and balances on governmental power. he radically expanded the power of government. radical is the exactly right word. If some truly bad men or women get in control of our government, these new powers will be fully exercised.

    Bush stood for the exact opposite of limited government.

    I am rather surprised at this being true.

    but it is in every sense (expansion of bureaucracy and the budget and erosion of states rights, unfunded mandates, and expansion of surveilance powers and erosion of constitutional checks) compared with ANY administration before him . amazingly including the administration of FDR.

    It does appear that roberts and alioto will not be conservative. conservative justices honor established precedent. precident seems to be often ignored.

    the democratic congress is fully complicit, so this is far from a partisan comment.


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