Would any aspiring president dare to emulate Bush's legacy?

Published on Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Would any aspiring president dare to emulate Bush's legacy?

A.H. Jaffor Ullah

George Bush's presidency was over by the time Joe Biden took the oath for the office of Vice President administered by Supreme Court Justice Stevens.  Be mindful that Barack Obama's oath taking ceremony had not taken place at the time.  The U.S. constitution states that the outgoing president ceases to be the chief executive of the Federal government when the VP is sworn in.


Barack Obama's oath taking ceremony took place later in the two-hour ceremony that has simply mesmerized this nation of over 300 million people.  This country has never quite experienced a ceremony like that despite the fact that Mrs. Michelle Obama did not wear an eye-catching gown.  Expectations were building over the last month for President Obama's swearing in ceremony, which was attended by well over a million people in Washington D.C.


President Bush then boarded a helicopter to go to a hanger for some ceremony (to bid farewell to people who worked in close association with him, mostly Republicans).  Vice President Biden was near the helicopter to bid the outgoing president off.  The news report in the Internet stated that Bush will fly out to Texas near his ranch by a US Air Force plane sometime late in the inauguration day, which is today, January 20, 2009.


Now that both Bush and Cheney will no longer be in Washington D.C. after the inauguration of Obama and Biden, many critics worldwide would give grades to this Republican duo for taking a decent economy and making it a 70-year's low.  Never mind America 's involvement in a bloody war, which was undeclared.  Many opinion writers think that it was Bush's personal war.


What was Bush's legacy after 8 years at the helm?  Bush's presidency was marred by the most unpopular war in the last 70 years.  There would be others who would be quick to say that it was a failed presidency.  Under his guidance, the US economy shrunk so much so that millions of people lost their job.  As of this writing unemployment rate is inching higher and there is no sign that it is abating anytime soon.  Americans are scared stiff knowing that there is no sign that tells them that the end is near and the economy is going turn the corner.  In the year 2001 when President Clinton left the office, the out-going president left a budget surplus.  However, the case is just the opposite.  The Iraq War was costing the US tax payers billions of dollars every month. To add insult to injury, the tax revenue base was shrinking for the last couple of years. 


It will take however a good stewardship of economy on the part of Obama-Biden Administration to bring a semblance of normalcy in the U.S. economy.  Many critics blame Bush-Cheney duo for wrecking the U.S. economy, which also brought down the other economies of the world.  For one think, we now live in a globalized world and this downturn in global economy was expected in the aftermath of the decline in American economy by most pundits.


President Bush was anything but an intellectual politician.  The same goes for the VP, Dick Cheney.  When they took office in late January 2001, there was no vision for taking America to a higher ground by this administration.  Conversely, there were talks of starting war somewhere in the oil-rich Arab nations.  The terrible incidences of September 11 in three places in the US simply served as the tinder.  It took almost 18 months for Bush to wage a war against Iraq .  When American GIs reached Baghdad in April 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush's first Defense Secretary, declared to the world press with much swagger that America was victorious over Saddam's army and the mission was accomplished.  Bush then visited the Navy ship SSS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 landing via a jet when the navy ship was approaching San Diego from Pearl Harbor , Hawaii .  It was a great publicity stunt but the phrase "Mission Accomplished" would haunt the president in years to come when it was becoming abundantly clear that Iraq War was not a successful war that he envisioned. 


The captured foreign soldiers from Afghanistan were hauled all the way to a makeshift prison in Guantánamo Bay in the island of Cuba and tortured by the agents of US government including CIA.  This practice was severely critiqued by many in the US media and by civil rights group.  The detainees were tortured using such horrible method as "waterboarding", which is in violation of the UN guidelines on how to humanely deal with POW.  Only a handful of the detainees were prosecuted but many languished in the jail without facing any court.  The Guantánamo camp brought so much infamy for the US government that President Obama has decided long before taking the oath for the office that one of the earlier tasks for him would be to dismantle this despicable military camp, which has given American government a bad name.


Under President Bush, the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, sacked 7 federal attorneys in December 2006, because of ideological reason. George Bush thought these dismissed US Attorneys were investigating Republican governors and lawmakers for ideological reason.  Others thought that these firing of attorneys were "fundamentally flawed," and "raised doubts about the integrity of Department prosecution decisions." Under a mounting opposition, the Attorney General, Mr. Gonzales, had to resign in disgrace.  Perhaps, this is legacy that will go down in the annals of judiciary history of America.


American historians those specializing in US government will probably judge George Bush very negatively and unkindly. Before his tenure could expire, many a historian has said openly that George Bush would make a failing grade as a president.  It is very doubtful whether any future president would emulate his presidency as a model to follow.  The Iraq War, the collapse in the financial world due to excessive subprime lending, a deep recession caused by excesses in the home building sector, a blatant disregard for human rights of captured foreign soldiers, etc., will remain Bush's failure and emblematic of a failed presidency.  His was a legacy of failed public policies.  Bush never did consult a large body of intellectuals and experts in the field and this is perhaps is the reason why his public policies never blossomed but instead withered in the vine.



Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans , USA

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