For the last two posts we have been exploring the claim that George W. Bush is the worst President of the United States ever. This post continues the job of grading W on the various issues that he faced in his two terms of office. See the previous posts to get the background for where we are now.
We are wimps – A – Osama Bin Laden and Sadam Hussein counted on the fact that the US doesn’t like to stay in the fight when the going gets tough (Vietnam and Somalia are great examples). He stood his ground and got destroyed politically to prove this wrong. Much of the animosity most Americans feel about W stems from his unwillingness to allow the cut and run mentality to take over. But now our enemies don’t just assume that we will run home to mommy when the bullets start flying.
Libya – A – no question about it. He got them to give up their nuclear program.
Africa – B – compared to other Presidents he actually should get an A since no other President has done as much for this continent as W. AIDS help, malaria help, better trade, etc. Unfortunately there was a lot more to do and the amount of suffering on this continent belittles the suffering on all other continents. He has done the best here.
Economy – tough to grade as he did great for awhile and then it fell apart – in general he gets a C only because it could have gotten a lot worse a lot earlier. The fact that the economy didn’t tube after 9/11 and Katrina is a testament to his skill. Unfortunately, the things that he needed to do to fix the problems of the Clinton era were not possible (politically or pragmatically) due to 9/11 and Katrina. I am not giving him a walk on this, I am just trying to be realistic about the outcomes of other actions. If he would have tightened credit earlier on during the thralls of pain from 9/11 and Katrina then the economy would have gone south for sure. I am not convinced that anyone could have prevented this current banking crisis without causing the crisis to occur several years ago. I would have given him a higher grade if he would have been making speeches warning of the problem though so that some small changes could have been been in place before it went over the cliff. He could have provided more intellectual leadership in talking about the problem without actually proposing a solution that would have caused the economy to tank – thin line to walk though.
Enron crisis – corporate governance – B – this was not just about Enron but the several issues that surrounded Enron. This was really a mess by Clinton that reared its ugly head during Bush’s term. Clinton would get an F in corporate governance! I originally gave W an A here except he did two things that were less than great
- he tried to hide that he knew Lay which was stupid.
- He also allowed Sarbanes-Oxley to go too far and is driving companies to go private and offshore. SOX is a perfect example of overshooting the mark to get on track, we can’t govern like a pendulum but need to drive to the right answer and not cause more problems as we overshoot the mark.
Iraq solution – C – something had to be done here. We had about 4 options (with variations on the themes) and all of them really sucked. All options that Bush took were going to give a C or D (the only option that would give an A was that SH would have taken exile and W at least tried that option although it is questionable that he tried hard enough or with enough convincing). He gets a C because he took one of the options that resulted in less global calamity and fewer casualties than any of the others.
Iraq invasion – A – faster and more successful and with less casualties on our side or among civilians than anyone thought realistic. Was at the easy end of the scale compared to what we were worried about. One of the things that the talking heads of the Democratic party lied about during the campaign was that we weren’t welcomed as liberators when we were. The people of Iraq did welcome us at first – do you remember the Saddam Hussein statue party? The big concern at the time was that we were going to cut and run (which we didn’t). If W was President during Vietnam and Korea the world would be a decidedly different place today (not necessarily better since Vietnam and Korea were actually hot proxies for the cold war).
More on this topic later!
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