Americas

June 25, 2012

‘W’: Four Years On

I am going to start this post with a statement some may consider to be so bold and controversial that they will not be able to read the rest of the post without attempting to formulate a challenge to my viewpoint throughout: George W. Bush was one of the greatest U.S. Presidents of all time.  This, admittedly, unpopular opinion is one that I will attempt to justify throughout the course of this post and, naturally, I welcome those of you who disagree violently to comment with a challenge to the views that I am to express in this article.

Firstly, contrary to stereotypical views of the Republican Party, George W. Bush can be said to have embraced scientific advancements when he became the first president in history to provide federal funding for stem cell research.  Moreover, Bush not only became the first president to successfully provide this funding, but he also managed to achieve a compromise through his policy by taking both the interests of scientific researchers and pro-life activists into account by ensuring that, although funding was to be provided for research purposes, the future destruction of human embryos was not to be permitted; this ensure that Bush respected both religious values and the needs of researchers.  Bush’s policy on stem cell research is in sharp contrast to that of his successor, Barack Obama, who overturned Bush’s ban on federal funding for research on stem cells created through the future destruction of human embryos and, arguably, attacked religious values by claiming that miracles do not happen simply by accident”.  Unlike his successor, on this issue, Bush showed an ability to compromise whilst also ensuring that science was able to advance further in an attempt to find new cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Moreover, similar to others such as Reagan and Lincoln, Bush was open to the idea that we should confront evil.  Through the neo-conservative Bush Doctrine, threats to the United States and the world were identified and confronted ultimately leading to a process of democratisation being introduced in states such as Iraq and Afghanistan which had been brutally oppressed under their former leaders.  Although the Bush Doctrine is often criticised, I do not believe that there is many people out there who truly believe that Iraq was a better place under the rule of the genocidal  Saddam Hussein nor do I believe that there are many people who believe that Afghanistan was a better place under the rule of the Taliban despite continued restrictions on the rights of women.  To believe otherwise would require one to be truly lacking a moral compass.  Through his willingness to confront evil, Bush demonstrated courage unknown to many other U.S. Presidents who have preferred to follow a policy of indifference, naturally, allowing the threat of evil to advance.

Moreover, although he must take some of the blame, George W. Bush cannot be held responsible for the financial crisis that unfolded at the end of his time in office.  It is likely that history will place on the spotlight on the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 as the key reason as to why the 2008 financial collapse occurred and, although Bush should have perhaps acted earlier to prevent the disaster which was to unfold, it may be said that few would have predicted what was to eventually happen.  Regardless, Bush did respond to the crisis by venturing outside of his own ideological beliefs to offer a stimulus package of $700 billion; this further allowed Bush to demonstrate a willingness to compromise, especially where important decisions were to be made.

Bush also successfully appointed two Supreme Court Justices who are now known to be key defenders of the U.S. Constitution, John Roberts and Samuel Alito.  Roberts, previous to his appointment, had been the law clerk of former Chief Justice Rehnquist and had argued numerous cases in front of the Supreme Court whilst Alito has demonstrated a desire to ensure that the Constitution is respected and that the rules outlined are not bent too far.  Even the withdrawn nomination of Harriet Miers can be said to have been a reasonable nomination, after all, she had previously been the president of the State Bar of Texas.

Finally, Bush also has a fantastic humanitarian record with, through the aid of programmes created under his administration, the death rate from AIDS in Botswana falling by around 60% and nearly 50% in Zambia.  In addition to this, Bush also created programmes with the aim of controlled other diseases in Africa such as malaria and earned the praise of stars such as Bob Geldof and Bono.  Bush’s efforts have worked to further the cause of modernisation in developing states and allowed for these to become more stable with the aid of the U.S. humanitarian effort.

The list, when researched, is endless.  Bush’s successes are countless and, with time, it is likely that his reputation will become more and more positive and his place in history will become more significant.  Over time, people will move away from the sensationalist news media and look to the history books and find a different story, one that illustrates a President willing to protect his country in hard times and to advance democracy and human rights throughout the world.  When people forget about the blunders in W’s speeches, something that was not unique to this President, they will acknowledge a man who aimed to achieve peace throughout the world.  I may be proved wrong in years to come or it may transpire that Bush truly should be regarded as one of the United States’ best presidents in a fashion similar to Harry Truman whose average approval rating was even lower than Bush’s yet is today considered to be one of the best Presidents in history.



About the Author

Aidan Press
Aidan Press is from Derby, United Kingdom and is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Warwick studying Politics with International Studies. Aidan's main areas of interest are the politics of the right in both the United Kingdom and the United States and the war on terror. Aside from his involvement in the world of politics, Aidan is a keen follower of football and a lover of music.




8 Comments


  1. Mirco

    One question: Are you convinced democracy is superior and should therefore be imposed on all other systems?!


  2. Aidan Press

    Hi Mirco,

    My answer to that question would be a yes.

    I subscribe to both the views of Francis Fukuyama and Doyle in that I believe liberal democracy is the last stage of political evolution and that the existence of liberal democracies will result in a more peaceful international arena. I also believe that the people in countries such as Iraq have a right to decide their own leadership rather than having the will of a tyrant forced upon them. I do believe that the Bush administration was right to export democracy and implement it throughout the world.


  3. Stefano S.

    Hi Aidan,
    just one question: have you read the book: “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” or watched the video on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA736oK9FPg

    I strongly recommend it to you, in this brilliant video, which is definitely a faster solution, given the 600 pages of the book. The author offers a sobering explanation of what this american “democracy exportation” under Bush was all about. Definitely not a thing to praise man!


  4. Aidan Press

    Hi Stefano,

    Thanks for your comment. I will get back to you accordingly, I am about to head off on holiday and, so, cannot access youtube.

    Thanks,

    Aidan


  5. Hello Aidan

    Thanks for your article. An initial comment: while I am not religious myself, my understanding is that most religious people would agree with Mr Obama’s statement that ‘miracles do not happen by accident.’ They would attribute miracles to the agency of God, Allah, Zeus or whichever deity they believe in. Therefore I would suggest that your attack on his words is rather weak. Regarding Mr Bush’s being the first president in history to approve funding for stem cell research – this was new technology; he was the first one who had to make that decision; and the decision he made retarded medical progress in order to pander to religious objections. The only winners were research companies in other countries (including the UK, actually) who took advantage of the USA’s restrictions to forge ahead in this field.

    On Iraq: out of interest, how many people do you think died following George Bush’s invasion of that country? Reports from respected organisations such as the Lancet and ORB put the figure at something over a million. You use the term ‘genocide’, but surely by supporting this war, you are supporting something approaching that phenomenon. By the way, the reason for the invasion we were given at the time was not to promote democracy, but to remove alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction and links with Al Qaeda. I don’t know if you remember – you were probably quite young at the time – but there was talk of a ‘smoking gun which could turn out to be a mushroom cloud’. There were fake documents purporting to be from Niger. There was so-called ‘slam dunk’ evidence which turned out to come from an alcoholic habitual liar. What do you think of such use of intelligence? Didn’t the administration which you support deliberately mislead the American people? Didn’t it break the law (and end up with a senior official going to prison) by naming Valerie Plame as a CIA agent? How about Hurricane Katrina – did the administration do a ‘great job’ on that event? And the use of torture in Guantanamo Bay? What would you say to the British citizens who were interned there for years, yet eventually released without charge?

    You finish by suggesting that “it may transpire that Bush truly should be regarded as one of the United States’ best presidents,” to which I can only respond that that would truly require a miracle (accidental or otherwise).


  6. Aidan Press

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for your comment, I must say I loved the use of humour within your last line. As I mentioned within the article, I expected this to be a rather controversial topic and I am glad that it has lived up to my expectations.

    In response to the concerns and questions raised in your comment, many of the US citizens that I know, and admittedly that can not be used as representative of the population, would agree with the charge that President Obama has shown disrespect to religion throughout his term in office. As with most political observations, this would be subjective. Secondly, not a critique of your comment but just a clarification point, I believe that there were issues regarding stem cell research within the Clinton presidency. I may be wrong, I accept that the technology is fairly new but I still believe that this is something that we should congratulate President Bush on. I think Clinton may appear as the topic as a future blog post as another controversial article!

    On Iraq, I am aware of the intelligence issues but, had Hussein acted in compliance with international issues then maybe this could have been avoided. In terms of Iraq/Afghanistan deaths, I accept that it was a horrifyingly huge number yet I also believe that the number would have been much larger with Hussein etc. left in charge.

    Hurricane Katrina-I believe the problem here was with the Democrat governor of Louisiana, Blanco. I seem to remember an issue relating to the use of the US Army and state’s rights, I will have to seek clarification on this but the Katrina story is not as clear as the media likes to present.

    Guantanamo-I have no major issue with the use of the Enhanced interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay, as far as we know, they have only been used on a few individuals and for information that may have been vital in saving the lives of thousands. If evidence comes to light to suggest otherwise, and that these techniques have been used on everyone and their pet dog at Guantanamo then I will gladly reconsider my position on this and, indeed, the administration.

    I hope this clears a few things up. As I have already said, my article achieved what I wanted it to in creating debate. Thanks once again for your comment, I will be glad to consider any further comments.

    Aidan


  7. FrankW

    Hi Aidan,

    I read your piece with interest and I have to give you points (lots) for originality and daring.

    As for a constructive criticism of your main position, that George W. Bush was a great president, I can see that many of the conventional points do not impress you, simply because you do not share the underlying assumptions and principles. E.g. you accept waterboarding where many people don’t as a matter of principle. Also, you acknowledge the large number of casualties in Iraq, but state that these people would have died under Saddam anyway. Without making a plausible argument for the latter, I have to add. These are matters of opinion and in the end one can only agree to disagree here.

    There is, however, another way of looking at the Bush Jr. presidency and it is this:

    When George W. Bush became president the US was, without question, politically the foremost power on Earth, economically the richest and most significant country on Earth and militarily the strongest nation in history. He also inherited a substantial budget surplus.

    When he left the presidency eight years later, the reputation of the US was in the tank, none of the other developed nations of the world would wholeheartedly support the US on anything, the economy was skidding downwards on a greased slide and the military was way over-extended and struggling in two wars and several smaller conflicts none of which it was able to control adequately. It was desperately trying to find allies to come and help fight in these conflicts, where it had earlier explicitly spurned (and scorned) such notions. Oh yeah, and the budget surplus had turned into a massive deficit, even before the crash of 2007-2008.

    The worst of it will probably prove to be the fact that the reputation of the US military as the massive invincible force it was perceived to be has been shattered. Clearly, the lessons of Vietnam have had to be learned again and they have to some extent, at the expense of substantial and avoidable casualties. But many people will have been watching the process and will have taken the lesson from it, rightly or wrongly (I think the latter), that the US can be beaten, so why not have a try. This means that in the future more people, US and allies, will have to die to dispel these notions. One should only fight the wars one *has* to fight and then one should fight them in such a way as to win and end them as quickly as possible. This lesson, the Powell doctrine learned in Vietnam, was wasted on Bush Jr. and his Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, probably because neither fought in Vietnam and they were both too pig-headed to accept it from others.

    I think that this will be the verdict on Bush’s presidency, that on his watch the decline of the US as the world’s leading power set in prematurely.

    Kind Regards,

    Frank


  8. Aidan Press

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you very much for your comment and for the points for daring. I actually do appreciate you saying that.

    I think, with the issue of George W. Bush, until we look back on the Bush years in, say, 20 years time, there will be many points on which people have to agree to disagree.

    Of course I do feel that Bush does have to shoulder some of the blame for the financial nightmare that the USA found itself in, however, I feel that the Clinton administration is mostly responsible for this at both executive (Democrat) and legislative (Republican) levels.

    I think on many of the other issues raised, I agree to disagree. I do, however, accept and understand all of the points raised and really appreciate your feedback.

    Thank you once again Frank,

    Kind regards,

    Aidan



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