BURLINGTON, Vt., April 29, 2013 — The George W. Bush Presidential Library is now living history. The Southern Methodist University campus will house some of the most important documents spanning one of the most consequential periods in American history.
Mr. Bush, affably known by nicknames “43,” “Dubya,” and “The Dub,” entered office after a disputed election. His first few months saw him ram through supply-side tax cuts that turned around a slowing economy he “inherited” from his predecessor. Despite a NASDAQ collapse of over 90 percent, Bush did not spend one minute complaining about his circumstances or blaming anybody else. He rolled up his sleeves and went to work. His promise upon taking office was to “restore honor and dignity to the White House.” After eight years of endless scandals during the prior administration, he did exactly that.
On September 11, 2001, radical Islamists from al Qaeda hijacked American airplanes and flew them into the two World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. A fourth plane destined for the White House was diverted when brave passengers took the plane back. United 93 would crash in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. New York was ground zero of a war America never asked or. Yet after almost four decades of presidents unwilling or unable to take the fight overseas, President George W. Bush launched a Global War on Terror.
He left office with toxic poll numbers, but has seen a revival as Americans come to appreciate and respect the hard choices he made during the toughest of times.
The left always hated him, felt he stole the 2000 election, and never gave him the decency and respect that an American leader deserves. Yet an honest look at his presidency reveals not a good leader, but a great one.
After 9/11, Bush took the fight to Afghanistan. The Taliban was routed in less than one month. Ruthless killer Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed, and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed was captured and placed in Guantanamo Bay. The Bush-Cheney interrogation methods extracted valuable information from KSM that led to the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden. When the war was floundering, Bush advocated a surge when Democrats were accepting defeat as inevitable (and in some cases openly rooting for it).
Liberals claimed the Iraq War was a failure based on a lie. Wobbly Republicans called the situation an honest mistake. Both of these groups are wrong. Iraq was the right war at the right time, led by the right President.
Those who disagree can judge Bush’s Iraq War and compare it to his successor’s approach in Syria.
Those who criticized Bush’s handling of Katrina were given a heaping dose of humble pie this week with revelations by one of his former toughest opponents that his conduct saved many lives.
His heroism during Katrina stands in stark contrast to his successor’s inability to fix Staten Island months after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
His integrity meant eight years of governing without a single significant scandal. His opponents had to invent scandals from Enron to Valerie Plame, yet neither of those situations showed any wrongdoing by President Bush. Nobody died, that’s for sure. Compare this to his successor’s situations involving Fast and Furious and Benghazi.
If there was one valid criticism of the Bush 43 administration, it would be lousy public relations. President Bush was far too gracious, polite, and dignified toward many critics not fit to lick his boots.
The measure of the man was expressed by his press secretary Dana Perino at a private dinner in the last year of his presidency. Given that the political scene felt like a boxing match where only one side was throwing punches, I asked when President Bush was going to finally start hitting back.
She made it clear the answer was “never.”
Not only was he going to be gracious to the end, his entire staff would be as well. Anybody violating his edict of politeness in the face of hostility would be immediately fired. That order came straight from the top, and his staff loyally obeyed.
He has kept his word not to criticize his predecessor or his successor. He kept his word about everything he said. When he spoke, his critics and supporters alike knew that he meant what he said.
So let his library be a tribute to a man who let his deeds triumph over the short-term revisionist historians, many of whom wanted to grind him into dust before he ever took office.
His rising poll numbers will only get even higher as time goes by and others tell the real stories of the Bush White House that he is too modest to share himself.
It needs to be said right now. George W. Bush was a great President, and an even finer man.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
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