Bush gives strong defense of his Presidency to WSJ

President Bush was interviewed byteh Wall Street Journal recently where he gave a commanding defense of his adminsitration. We feature some of the highlights, but if you want the whole text go here and become a WSJ subscriber.

No Child Left Behind, which he says was not only an “education reform” but a “civil rights measure”; a costly Medicare prescription-drug program, which also created health-savings accounts and put “people in charge of their own health-care decisions”; his faith-based initiative, which he says was not about making the state a “religious recruiter” but about creating a government mentality that says “if it works, fund it”; his tax cut, which he credits in part for “52 months of uninterrupted job growth.” He also is proud of “fighting off protectionism and promoting trade,” and his success at getting Trade Promotion Authority back in 2002.

Mr. Bush had many big plans that never came to fruition, from school vouchers to radical health-care reform. He considers Social Security and immigration the “two big issues that were unfinished.” His immigration plan infuriated his base, which viewed it as amnesty. He remains unrepentant. “Immigration was a very tough issue, and I knew it would be tough because it’s a very emotional issue . . . On the other hand, the system was broken, falling apart, and people’s lives were being affected in a way that was really not worthy of our country…”

He also won’t agree that Social Security reform was a casualty of the Iraq war. “Social Security did not pass because legislative bodies tend to be risk-averse, and restructuring, reforming Social Security requires a certain amount of risk. And the idea of asking members of Congress to deal with a problem that is not imminent is difficult.” He contents himself with having “laid out some solutions” and hoping a future president will take courage from the fact he campaigned on it twice, “proving it was not the third or fourth or fifth rail of American politics…”

The action that will always most define the Bush presidency will be the invasion of Iraq. It is also the decision he remains most visibly passionate about, especially given it was the cornerstone of his broader “freedom agenda” in the Middle East. That agenda, he says, is working, and he remains confident that while it “was widely criticized by some as being hopelessly naïve and idealistic, is really the only practical way to provide long-term security . . .” He is convinced the region is stepping into a new era, and will continue on that path “unless America loses nerve in our belief in the universality of freedom.”

The president suggests his program that has provided antiretroviral drugs to 2.2 million African HIV-AIDS victims is also partly aimed at national security. Freedom includes “freedom from disease, because [terrorists] can exploit hopelessness, and that’s the only thing they can exploit.”…

He also counts as an accomplishment his protection of the homeland, in particular that he is “leaving behind tools that future presidents will be able to use — and even though they were controversial when they were implemented, people are going to get in that Oval Office and say, now I understand why this tool is important.”

He dismisses criticisms (some from this page) that his second-term foreign policy has been a shadow of his first — that it has placed too high a premium on a diplomatic multilateralism that has allowed Iran to inch closer to a bomb and North Korea to play the world community. “A credible foreign policy is one in which you initially establish your credibility, establish your principles by which you would govern and stand strongly by them, so that over time, the people will begin to say — in the world — say, well, we can’t change him, let’s join him and try to solve problems.”

Mr. Bush lists as an example the Palestinian issue, in which he refused “to deal with Arafat,” but in which “the world came in many ways to recognize that policy made some sense” and “therefore the two-state solution led by a Palestinian Authority that recognized Israel has now come to be.”

I ask the president how the Republican Party has changed these past eight years. What are the opportunities it has missed, or where has it grown?

Organizationally, he says the “Bush era for the Republican Party” will be remembered for its breakthrough work in 2000 and 2004 in “how to organize at the grass roots,” the “micro-targeting, and a very intense focus on getting out votes” that Barack Obama built on this year with the Internet. Substantively, he acknowledges it is difficult to “assess where [the party] has grown after a defeat” like the one it just received. He wishes he could say that one change “was the capacity to get Hispanic votes” — as he did in 2004 — but this election saw a Latino defection to Democrats.

Yet he remains a believer in the cyclicality of politics, and his own stamp on the party. He says a younger generation will “take our philosophy, which is right of center — compassionate conservatism is how I describe it — and win.” He doesn’t believe change requires an ideological shift, but rather “new faces, new voices, fresh energy” that take “the same basic philosophy — lower taxes, strong national defense, a belief in a responsibility era.”…

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  • Scott Jorgensen

    Worst President Ever.

    • davidg

      Scott, I think I agree with you. If what Bush says is the best that can be said about his administration, then he really is one of the worst, if not the worst president ever.

      Legislative initiatives: his social security and immigration reforms were both total failures. It doesn’t matter if you agreed or disagreed with his proposals. He achieved nothing. No-child-left-behind will be used as the precedent which eventually turns local control of education over to the federal government. No progress here at all.

      Conservative columnists George Will and Pat Buchanan have both classified the Iraq invasion as the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of the country. It will certainly be one of the two defining major catastrophes unleashed by Bush. The other, more recent, is …

      The bailout. Although the country was sliding into recession last October, the stock market crash only occurred because Bush-Bernanke-Paulson incited panic by telling everyone that the financial world would collapse soon. Stockowners believed that and the stock market suddenly tanked. Then to make matters worse, they insisted on a bailout to buy the so-called toxic assets. After getting approval to do so, they proved that neither they nor anyone knows what to do now. They floundered with alternative bailout plans, most recently being of the automakers, but the economic slide continues. No one in the government (or anywhere else for that matter) is smart enough to know how to manage the US or world economy. But Bush has set the precedent (which Obama will delightfully follow) that it is important for the government to “do something” (i.e. spend lots of money), even if it couldn’t possibly know what to do.

      Did he keep us safe? More Americans have died in Iraq than in the 911 disaster. It is true that there have been no Islamic terrorists attacks on our soil since 911, but even Osama always said that the purpose of 911 was to provoke the USA into a war with Islam. Afghanistan is also looking very much like Viet Nam in terms of escalating investment in the face of no success. I don’t give Bush credit for any legacy here.

      Is Bush the worst? I don’t think anyone else is even close to him.

  • Jerry

    Sadly, this man quit governing when he tried to “get along” with the sad-sack Dems. It is no wonder his approval ratings are so very, very low. He did nothing to foster conservatism. He is no Ronald Reagan, for sure.
    Sad, too, because he is a good person – just wasn’t a good leader. Except for security – he did very well there.

    • dean

      Jerry…Reagan raised taxes after he lowered them, which Bush didn’t. Reagan did not attack nations, other than Grenada who did not atack us first. Bush did. Reagan withdrew troops from a hostile, deteriorating situation in the Middle East (cut and ran) while Bush “stayed the course.” Reagan even negotiated with terrorists, which Bush says he would never do. Reagan granted amnesty to illegal aliens. Bush tried to do so but was blocked. Reagan saved Social Security while Bush tried to kill it off. Both ran up huge deficits. So which one was the “true conservative?”

      • Jerry


  • Reper

    When in the last four years did he get along?

  • Phinklils

    Интересно даже для бухгалтера :)))))

  • Steven Plunk

    Bush has done a good job with the circumstances he was forced to deal with. I can’t understand why some people discount the effect 9/11 had on our country and our world. Without the terrorist attack we would not have gone to war, oil prices would have remained stable (higher or lower but stable), and the constriction of privacy rights would not have happened. Each of these three things will have an effect on us for years.

    The war, as all wars, will give us scars of the dead and wounded. The press treatment of our soldiers and leaders has painted this war as less honorable than previous ones and with more atrocities. That is far from the truth. We have minimized civilian deaths. We have carried the burden mostly by ourselves even with other country’s contributions. The few instances of shameful behavior by some troops has been reported more than the heroic actions they have accomplished. The world has lost a measure of respect not from our actions but from the way the press played up the scandals.

    High oil prices have damaged the economy more than most will acknowledge. Not only do the high prices eat away at disposable income and drive up costs of everyday goods it has eroded consumer confidence. Without confidence to make purchases the economy falls and becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The real estate bubble could have been survived if it had not come with $5 a gallon fuel.

    The necessary but unwelcome constriction of privacy rights will be very hard to undo. Before blaming Bush we should note the genuine threat to our society by Islamic terrorists and a congress who saw the same need. It’s unfortunate but when these rights are eroded it is very hard to get them back.

    Bush’s tenure was not one of a conservative. Conservative values and goals were forced to be given a back seat to more pressing problems. A hostile congress would not allow other conservative measures to be taken up let alone made law. A hostile press would not give conservative ideas a fair hearing in front of the public but instead painted those as cold hearted, naive, and without merit.

    Could Bush have done better? I think so. But is it fair for us to sit in judgment with the benefit of hindsight? No. Is it fair for us to pass judgment even before his term is up and his place in history become tempered with time? No. What we can do is judge the man for his tough decisions coupled with the compassion he showed by writing those letters and visiting those wounded soldiers with no press corp and with dignity.

    • dean

      Steven…I’ll agree with you that Bush’s place in history will take time to sort out. The first draft is in, and it is hard to say there is much good in it. But who knows what paper and computer file digging will turn up?

      I don’t agree at all that the press has painted the war or warriors as less than honorable. The images from Abu Gahreb were provided by teh soldiers themselves. The orders, or allowance to mistreat prisoners and use tactics long accepted to constitute torture are unique to this president.

      Also…Bush had 6 years of a Republican majority Congress that gave him everything he asked for…no questions asked. I can’t thing of a single thing he did not get from them other than his SSI destruction bill after the 04 election.

    • Carlos

      “OK, you’ve covered your ass, now get out of here.” (Bush’s response to being “briefed” on a known threat to the United States by OBL prior to 9/11)

      Steven: What’s the price of Gas today? About $1.50 a gallon? Did somebody go into a time machine and undo 9/11? No. The price of gas is low now because the oil companies made the hundreds of billions they wanted with it at $5 and knew if they kept it up, they would be socialized or have their massive profits taxed and their goverment perks taken away.

      The war was horrible? Then why did we do it? Why didn’t we let the inspectors finish their work? Was there an “immenent danger?” NO. And that is the ONLY allowable reason under international law to pre-emptively attack a soverign nation that has not attacked you.

      The NSA spying? Was there really a reason not to go to the FISA court that had approved 99.5% of all requests ever made to it? NO, unless they were spying places they shouldn’t have been.

      Bottom line? Bush/Cheney were pathetic criminals not worthy of any respect, and history will judge them as such.

  • Bob Tiernan

    “Worst President Ever.” Or so says Scott.

    That’s just a talking point. Sure, Bush 43 probably ranks
    in the bottom 25% of presidents (making him one of the
    worst 10 or 11), but one needs to be careful when using
    the phrase “worst ever”. I heard one of the nutty Bush
    haters (i.e. one who prepared to hate Bush and everything
    he was going to do while he was still president-elect)
    say Bush was the worst of all time, and the radio talk
    host reminded the caller of, to name one, Carter. To
    emphasize this point he detailed a number of big
    failures of the Carter Admin and that admin’s economic
    stats. The caller, recognizing that the record she just
    heard about was truly awful, was unable to say anything
    other than, “Well, that was a long time ago”.

    In other words, she’s only familiar with the last four
    presidents yet has the gall to claim she knows
    who ranks as the worst of 43 (42 actually). So
    the most she can say is that Bush is actually the
    worst president in the last 28 years. Others who
    know more about the records of the rest can
    say Bush is as low as 30- or even 40-something,
    but not many of the 20-something kids.

    Bob Tiernan

    • dean

      Carter ran a failed presidency…not much quesitona about that. But the hole he left for Reagan was nowhere near as deep or as wide as the one Bush has left for Obama. Take any measure; national economy, deficit, debt, international position, energy, poverty, number of people with health insurance, unemployment, unresolved foreign conflicts….Bush has way outdone Carter on the downside.

      Oh…inflation was higher under Carter. Bush wins that one.

      History will ultimately judge Bush and Carter to have been lousy presidents. Worst ever? Who knows? Unfortunately for Bush he had 2 terms to dig a deeper hole, while Carter only had one term. And no one living remembers James Buchanan’s time in office, which left us on the brink of the Civil War.

  • Bob Tiernan

    “History will ultimately judge Bush and Carter to have been lousy presidents. Worst ever? Who knows?…And no one living remembers James Buchanan’s time in office”

    Dean, that’s one of many reasons why it’s been stupid for so many
    people to parrot the “worst president ever” line as a talking point.
    That’s my only point.

    As for Buchanan, by the way, what do you think he (or anyone else)
    could have done? Extend the Crittenden Compromise line to the
    Pacific? Then what?

    Bob Tiernan

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