His administration spent far more money, utterly without regard to revenue, than all the drunken sailors in human history combined. It maintained a cozy relationship with big business and financial interests, and looked the other way while their shortsightedness and greed drove our economy (with the Democrats' help) into the toilet. It staggered for years from one misguided war strategy to another (before finding one that worked), and held onto high-profile advisers long after their advice proved worthless. It did little to stem illegal immigration or to measurably improve educational performance in this country.
For these and other reasons--and to some extent, for no discernible reason at all--George W. Bush attracted more mockery and contempt than perhaps any President in American history. Yet, he stayed remarkably optimistic through it all. Despite the low esteem in which he is held in Western Europe and the Middle East, as well as in this country, he is regarded favorably in much of Eastern Europe, Africa, India, and the Far East. His anti-terror policies have, so far, kept our enemies occupied or reeling, far from our shores. And a recent analysis by the Associated Press--hardly a bastion of Republican-friendly journalism--paints a picture of our soon-to-be-ex-Chief Executive much more appealing than the one reflected by the Mainstream Media over the last eight years. In it, he emerges as good-humored, energetic, inquisitive, incisive, and disciplined; as sentimental, considerate, and religious; and as passionately committed to education, AIDS relief, and, above all, freedom.
It takes a great man to endure the vituperation that President Bush has, without bitterness or retaliation. And it takes a great woman, like Laura Bush, to keep the President on an even keel and strengthen our national leadership with her own limitless grace and generosity (how long will it be before we have another Fist Lady as excellent as she's been?). Perhaps we'll better see the good Mr. Bush has done once the fog of crisis and acrimony has cleared, in future years. Until then, we should lay aside our own bitterness and pray that the America he labored to help, however clumsily, emerges safe, strong, and healthy at last.
UPDATE January 12, 2008: For an excellent, mostly favorable review of President Bush's record, see Fred Barnes, Bush's Achievements: Ten things the president got right (Weekly Standard, 01/19/2009 issue).