So did Hussein's lieutenants. I did, too. The conventional wisdom was wrong, but Bush can take comfort in the knowledge that without his efforts, Hussein almost certainly would have outlasted U.N. sanctions, armed himself to the hilt and wreaked unknown havoc in and beyond Iraq.
There is no comfort -- there is no upside -- to be had in the $810 billion Bush bailout. The Bush administration should have been on alert to contain the damage from the housing-price drop and mortgage foreclosures; instead, it allowed the credit crunch to reach a tipping point and roll over the U.S. economy. It was so avoidable. It was like the Katrina trailers all over again -- except this preventable and unnatural disaster left toxic trailers strewn across America.
There's an out-to-lunch sloppiness to the whole mess. It feels as if the barrage of criticism made the Bush engine seize up and stop running the business of the nation.
America's first MBA president turned out to be a poor administrator, more interested in ideas than making the machinery work. He was good at fighting -- and winning -- ideological battles in Congress, but he never demonstrated a commitment to making his own administration deliver as promised. In putting loyalty at a premium, he overlooked incompetence.
How will history judge Bush?
Osama bin Laden once told Time magazine that the U.S. withdrawal from Somalia after the murder of 18 U.S. troops on a humanitarian mission made him realize "more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat." Members of al-Qaida have told intelligence officials they never thought Washington would respond to the 9/11 attacks as ferociously as Bush responded. They expected a few bombs to be dropped, no boots on the ground, a swift withdrawal if casualties mounted -- the usual short-attention span foreign policy that warped Lebanon, the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, the African embassy bombings and the attack on the destroyer Cole.
Bush showed America's enemies a country that does not retreat in fear, does not bomb with impunity, and most important, does not desert civilians or foreign governments that trust us. If you think that doesn't matter, look at Libya, which disarmed its weapons program. And see how much easier Obama's presidency will be because Bush kept the faith.
Osama bin Laden may live, most likely quivering in a cave. And no one thinks America is a paper tiger anymore.
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