As President George W. Bush's presidency approaches its final days, historians are already discussing how future generations will view America's 43rd president. According to a recent piece by CNN's Ed Hornick, contemporary historians view the administration as "incompetent," "battered," and "unlucky." While these labels may, indeed, fit the Bush Administration to varying degrees, there is little talk of the administration's successes.
While I am sure that the mere mention of the word "success" in connection with Bush's name will result in fits of dismissed rationality for some, ignoring these accomplishments creates a historically inaccurate depiction - one that American media outlets have worked, perhaps inadvertently, to reinforce. Regardless of where one stands politically, it is virtually impossible to ignore the fact that George W. Bush's accomplishments are rarely recognized.
Since 2003, Bush's approval ratings have suffered and declined steadily, landing him with the highest disapproval rating for any president in American history. When commenting on this less than stellar accomplishment, CNN's polling director Keating Holland recently said, "That means that Bush is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon was when he resigned from office during Watergate with a 66 percent disapproval rating." But, even with negativity surrounding Bush at every corner, his supporters are still out there.
The day before the 2008 election, Andrew Breitbart wrote about his general liking for Bush and said, "President Bush...will be judged by history - not by vengeful Democrats, hate-filled Hollywood, corrupt foreign governments, an imploding mainstream media or fleeting approval ratings.
There is no doubt that the United States is confronted with a plethora of issues that some claim were created, fostered and exacerbated by President Bush. From the financial markets to the war in Iraq the view, both domestically and internationally speaking, is grim at best. Even with these issues in mind, the failure of many major media outlets to discuss some of the shining successes that have been brought about by this president is disconcerting.
Social Security Reform
This is, perhaps, an anomalous area of exploration, mostly because Bush's efforts to transform the Social Security inevitably failed. Still, it is important to note that he did propose a plan to amend the system. Again, regardless of where you stand politically, his acknowledgement of the dire realities that are to come if the system is not fixed should be noted.
After all, this is a serious issue. According to Facing Up to the Nation's Finances, "...the board of trustees that oversees the Social Security system projects that the program's expenditures will exceed income in just 10 years (2017). The Social Security Trust Fund provides a cushion against these needs, but by 2042, the trust fund will be exhausted as well and the system will only be able to cover about three-quarters of the benefits promised."
In the end - as is the case with most subjects in Washington these days - ideological dissension (both inter and intra party) got in the way and Bush's plans to privatize Social Security failed. Regardless of the end result, he does deserve some credit for raising the issue and attempting to amend it.
HIV/AIDS is one of the most important areas of Bush's success that has gone vastly uncovered. Back in March 2008, Bob Geldof penned an intriguing piece for TIME Magazine about George W. Bush and America's commitment to the African continent. While Geldof disagrees with Bush on a multitude of issues, his piece opened up necessary dialog surrounding HIV/AIDS and the legacy of America's forty-third president.
According to Geldof, "Bush...initiated the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with cross-party support led by Senators John Kerry and Bill Frist." The Bush Administration has also fought tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS (the U.S. provides a substantial amount of funding for the Global Fund). Unfortunately, the American people remain vastly unaware of these advancements.
George W. Bush's commitment to Africa should not be eclipsed by negative commentary or partisan political angst. While one may not agree with the aggregate of George W. Bush's domestic or international policies, there is no contesting the positive impact he has had on the African region.
After all, Geldof points out that in 2003, only 50,000 Africans were taking antiretroviral drugs. Even more unconscionable, these people were paying for their own medication. But today, treatment is much more widespread. In fact, there are 1.3 million individuals receiving medicines free of charge, which can mostly be attributed to George W. Bush and his Republican administration.
While mainstream media outlets have virtually ignored President Bush's work in the homelessness arena, coverage is surely deserved. The reality is that the Bush administration's efforts to curb chronic homelessness have been highly successful. A chronic homeless person is defined as, "...someone with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more or for four or more episodes in three years."
According to Frank Greve of McClatchy Newspapers, President Bush initiated a program entitled "Housing First." Unlike traditional programs that require individuals to go through months of treatment and counsel prior to being granted housing, "Housing First" does exactly what the name states - it gives shelter to those in need before taking other actions. Through this program, the Bush administration offers rent-free apartments to chronically homeless persons.
According to Greve, "The "housing first" strategy gets much of the credit for a 30 percent decline in U.S. chronic homelessness from 2005 to 2007. The number fell from 176,000 to 124,000 people, according to the best available census of street people."
In spite of all of the pain, anger, resentment and frustration that many feel as a result of the War on Terror, the fact remains that the United States has not sustained an attack on our soil since 2001. Unfortunately, too many Americans overlook this reality - particularly those on the Left. After all, it is relatively easy to forget the potential threat of calamity when one is safe enough to no longer worry (knock on wood) about potential internal attacks. Breitbart also pointed out this obvious yet all-to-frequently unexplored notion:
"The fact that the United States has not been attacked since Sept. 11, 2001, far exceeds the most wishful expert predictions of the time. Perhaps facing another al Qaeda-led barrage would have reinforced our need for national unity, caused us to recognize the gravity of the Islamist threat and fortified Mr. Bush's standing at home and abroad. Yet, thankfully, that never happened. And Mr. Bush has been punished for this obvious success."
At the end of the day, no matter how much Bush's critics forge against his tactics, American soil has undoubtedly been well-protected. There has definitely been a lack of credit in this arena, as critics have focused (many times rightfully) on his blunders in Iraq and on what some call his failure to properly cope with domestic issues. Still, this feat is massive enough to warrant at least a partial congratulatory note from the American electorate.
History will, indeed, be George W. Bush's most benevolent judge. While proponents and opponents will rail for and against the Bush administration's policies, contemporary views cannot possibly create the well-rounded and realistic interpretation that is needed to properly or efficiently evaluate. Surely, President Bush was faced with profound difficulties and tough choices. While his administration often fell short, ignoring the positive accomplishments he has made both domestically and internationally is simply unacceptable.