Michael Medved

As he prepares to leave the White House after eight monumentally eventful years, what's the right standard for judging the performance of George W. Bush?

The basis for answering that question has changed radically over the course of the last seven years, very much to the president's detriment.

After the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001, and Bush's almost instantaneous rebirth as a determined "War President," most Americans expressed clear ideas of what they expected of the commander in chief. The conventional wisdom of the time declared that his presidency would rise or fall based on his ability to keep the nation safe. If the United States sustained a series of crippling new attacks the world understood that history would judge Bush as a failure. If, against all odds, he succeeded in turning the tide against our terrorist adversaries and managed to keep the nation secure from homeland assaults, then the president would emerge from his terms of office as a successful, and probably heroic, chief executive.

The concentration on the Iraq War after March of 2003 altered the criteria for evaluating the Bush Presidency. The conflict in Iraq, like all wars, proved messy, unpredictable, frustrating and often mishandled. For better or for worse, the American people identified the struggle as the defining gamble of the Bush administration and leading commentators declared that the president would provoke either contempt or gratitude based on the outcome of that war. If the United States failed in its mission of establishing a durable, pro-western government in Iraq, Mr. Bush stood no more chance of a favorable judgment by history than did Johnson or Nixon after the collapse of the U.S. investment in Vietnam. If, on the other hand, Mr. Bush defied the fanatical anti-war (and often anti-American) protesters and all the media nay-sayers, and somehow managed to produce a positive outcome in Iraq, then that alone seemed to guarantee a positive verdict by posterity on his presidency.

Michael Medved

Michael Medved's daily syndicated radio talk show reaches one of the largest national audiences every weekday between 3 and 6 PM, Eastern Time. Michael Medved is the author of eleven books, including the bestsellers What Really Happened to the Class of '65?, Hollywood vs. America, Right Turns, The Ten Big Lies About America and 5 Big Lies About American Business
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