Words For Mr. Bush, And Some Critical Of Him
A passenger on board this ship with whom I've become friendly on my African cruise exclaimed to me the other day, "George Bush is the worst President in Ameican history." He was quite taken aback when I did not agree, especially since he knows I am a Republican who supports Barack Obama for president.
Actually, I told him, at least three presidents were worse than Mr. Bush: James Buchanan, who did nothing as the country drifted into disunion and civil war, Herbert Hoover, who sat idly by while the Great Depression worsened, and Warren Harding, corrupt and an adulterer, whose wife may have poisoned him.
And that does not count the nonentities, who accomplished little or nothing as President, such as Millard Fillmore, William Henry Harrison and Chester Arthur. Poor Harrison caught a cold on inauguration day and died just a month later.
My feeling is that President Bush has acted forthrightly in accord with his judgment and has tried, in difficult circumstances, to do the best he could by the American people.
There are several matters with which I find myself in serious disagreement with the President, who I voted for in 2004 but not in 2000. One is his Supreme Court appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. I think they have moved the Supreme Court disastrously to the right, and that Sen. John McCain, by the way, is wrong to extoll them. Second, is the President's total failure to even try to cope with global warming or the oil price crisis. Third, of course, was his inadequacy in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.
But there are matters in which I think the President is to be honored for his service.
First, I'd say, he has been strong for civil rights. If Obama indeed is elected president, Mr. Bush will have helped pave the way for an African-American by naming Gen. Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice secretaries of state. He also went to Atlanta to speak at a ceremony honoring The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and to the Capitol Rotunda to honor Rosa Parks when she died.
Some will say that the President, through some of the tactics he has adopted in the War on Terror, has compromised civil liberties. I can't agree. Civil liberties in America are intact. Giving harsh treatment to foreign terrorists does not constitute an abridgement of our liberties. It may, in fact, protect them. Murderers like Osama bin Laden are not entitled to good treatment. We dare not lose the fight with such scoundrels, because if we do, we will no longer be free.
Some will also say the President did not get along with the press and was not always candid with them. Although I spent 50 years in the newspaper business, this does not really bother me. Sometimes, it is advantageous for a President to be buddies with the press, and sometimes it isn't.
Of course, history will judge Mr. Bush on his initiation and conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All polls show the American people have soured on Iraq, and this may cost the Republican party heavy losses in the 2008 election, as it did the one in 2006.
But I persist in feeling that putting an American army into the Middle East served our interest at the time. Whether we are ultimately successful there, I agree with McCain, depends on our perseverance. I was very proud when my own son served two tours of duty in Iraq. And I question whether either Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton would find the consequences of removing American troops from Iraq to be palatable.
I wish George W. Bush had been a better, more skillful, perhaps more intellectual president. But I think he has been dedicated to doing the right thing, as he understood the right, and I believe he should be thanked and honored for that.
Labels: George W. Bush