Air Force One, with U.S. President George W. Bush aboard, enters its hangar for Bush to visit Air Force One crew members, called the Presidential Airlift Group, after his last scheduled flight as sitting president landed at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, January 10, 2009. The next time Mr. Bush boards this plane it will be as a private citizen for his ride home to Texas and the call sign will no longer be Air Force One.
All this week we'll be sharing our memories of the Bush presidency. Since the "news" media only covered the bad news and little of the good, the good news will be the focus for this week. But I do want to give the Bush haters an opportunity to express themselves one more time today (though eight years of bile seems long enough) in the comments section. After today, if you can't hold your tongue and be civil, don't expect your comments to remain posted for long.
Bush's Mixed Record
Conservatives would be the first to point out President Bush's weak points. Many of us disagreed with him strongly on issues like immigration and wished he had done a better job of controlling spending and taking a more direct approach to combating the negativity and bile that elected Democrats threw at him from day one.
It soon became apparent that the "new tone" with which President Bush came into office was a one way street. One of many examples of how this failed was with Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) who was invited to the White House along with his family to watch a movie in the White House theater about his late brother JFK's efforts to keep America safe during the Cuban missile crisis. A few years later, Senator Kennedy rose on the Senate floor and accused the Bush Administration of telling "lie after lie after lie" in the effort to keep America safe from another deadly threat.
President Bush was also too silent in combating the successful efforts of Democrats to blame him for everything that went wrong during the past eight years and deny him any credit for what went right.
Two examples of this: First, the purpose of President Bush's recent trip to Iraq was to sign an historic alliance between Iraq and the United States. It fulfilled one of the prime conditions that President Bush laid down for victory in Iraq. That is, that Iraq should become an ally of the United States in the war on terror. It escapes many who can only see the downside in Iraq that the Iraqis themselves have killed more terrorists than any other entity in the world except the U.S. military. Iraq has become an ally of the first order. Yet all that good news was ignored because one Iraqi "journalist" threw his shoes at President Bush.
Second, President Bush is blamed for the financial meltdown. After all, it happened on his watch. But many who blame him for the meltdown refuse to accept that it was Democrats in Congress who protected Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from the regulatory reform President Bush proposed years before the crisis occurred. Those reforms could have prevented the crisis. President Bush's critics say that he should have stopped the Democrats from blocking the reforms. Some of these critics also accused him of stifling political dissent, even comparing him to Hitler. Now they say he wasn't good enough at stifling dissent? Which is it?
The financial crisis has been debated in full on these pages and many others. I would only add this late entry by Karl Rove. It's an excellent summation of the problem:
President Bush Tried to Rein In Fan and Fred
Democrats and the media have the housing story wrong
By Karl Rove
Wall Street Journal
JANUARY 8, 2009
Mythmaking is in full swing as the Bush administration prepares to leave town. Among the more prominent is the assertion that the housing meltdown resulted from unbridled capitalism under a president opposed to all regulation.
Like most myths, this is entertaining but fictional. In reality, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were among the principal culprits of the housing crisis, and Mr. Bush wanted to rein them in before things got out of hand.
Because of this, the Bush administration warned in the budget it issued in April 2001 that Fannie and Freddie were too large and overleveraged. Their failure "could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting federally insured entities and economic activity" well beyond housing.
Mr. Bush wanted to limit systemic risk by raising the GSEs' capital requirements, compelling preapproval of new activities, and limiting the size of their portfolios. Why should government regulate banks, credit unions and savings and loans, but not GSEs? Mr. Bush wanted the GSEs to be treated just like their private-sector competitors.
But the GSEs fought back. They didn't want to see the Bush reforms enacted, because that would level the playing field for their competitors. Congress finally did pass the Bush reforms, but in 2008, after Fannie and Freddie collapsed.
The largely unreported story is that to fend off regulation, the GSEs engaged in a lobbying frenzy. They hired high-profile Democrats and Republicans and spent $170 million on lobbying over the past decade. They also constructed an elaborate network of state and local lobbyists to pressure members of Congress.
When Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed for comprehensive GSE reform in 2005, Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut successfully threatened a filibuster. Later, after Fannie and Freddie collapsed, Mr. Dodd asked, "Why weren't we doing more?" He then voted for the Bush reforms that he once called "ill-advised."
But Mr. Dodd wasn't the only Democrat to heap abuse on the Bush reforms. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts defended Fannie and Freddie as "fundamentally sound" and labeled the president's proposals as "inane." He later voted for the reforms. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York dismissed Mr. Bush's "safety and soundness concerns" as "a straw man." "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," was the helpful advice of both Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York berated a Bush official at a hearing, saying, "I am just pissed off" at the administration for raising the issue.
The housing meltdown is largely a story of greed and irresponsibility made possible by government privilege. If Democrats had granted the Bush administration the regulatory powers it sought, the housing crisis wouldn't be nearly as severe and the economy as a whole would be better off.
That's why some mythmakers are so intent on denying that Mr. Bush worked to rein in the GSEs. But facts are stubborn things, as Ronald Reagan used to say, and in this instance, the facts support Mr. Bush and offer a harsh judgment on key Democrats. Perhaps that explains why so many in the media haven't told the real story.
History will be kind to the Bush Presidency
As much as conservatives might find reason to criticize certain aspects of the Bush presidency there is no doubt that we have deep respect for the man and his conduct as Commander in Chief. As a war time leader he has kept America safe. It's odd that some of the handwringers on the left who said Bush policies threatened civil liberties are alive today because of the actions President Bush took in the wake of the September 11th attacks.
I firmly believe that history will be kind to President Bush. I recall that at the end of the Reagan presidency it was widely reported in the "news" media of the time that his presidency hadn't been a great success. That was the verdict of so-called scholars and pundits. But the appreciation of the American people for Reagan's efforts has only grown with time. The same will be true for the legacy of President Bush. As the media generated hysteria over insignificant events like the shoe thrower, or Abu Ghraib or the phony stories about domestic spying fade, the real legacy of an America that is safer, stronger and with Iraq as an ally will emerge.
Join in the Bush Thankathon!
Post the link to your blog article thanking President Bush in the comment's section.