WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President George W. Bush has more than three years to go before his second term in office is finished, yet these past few months have been instrumental in shaping the legacy by which he is likely to be remembered by historians.
This week in Iraq, citizens will vote on a national referendum to approve a constitution and bring the Iraqi people another step closer to self governance. The stakes are high. As an intercepted al Qaeda communique revealed, it is the goal of radical Islamic jihadists to drive Americans out of Iraq, take control of the government and the territory, and then expand the reign into surrounding countries. But a successful vote on the constitution means Iraqis are taking more control of their own fate. A free and stable government in Iraq will greatly deter the goals of the jihadists.
On the home front, Mr. Bush has been forced to react to Mother Nature's fury and quickly marshal the resources necessary to do what hasn't been done in generations -- rebuild a major American city whose infrastructure was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A major public policy initiative to save Social Security has been stalled temporarily, but even his critics give him credit for tackling an issue which most politicians were too afraid to touch. And the last few months have afforded the president the opportunity to appoint not just one, but two justices to the Supreme Court. Their impact on Mr. Bush's legacy, however, may not be completely understood for several years.
Though their outcomes are not yet known, these issues -- war and peace, retirement security, the future of the Court and the reconstruction of New Orleans -- are the kinds of weighty, meaningful issues on which a presidency should be judged.
Compare that to the three major issues that have defined the legacy of Bill Clinton's time in office -- scandal, corruption and personal moral failings. That legacy was reinforced this week with the release of "My FBI," a new blockbuster book by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
In his book, Freeh says that he had to go toe-to-toe with Clinton from the outset. "But almost from the very beginning, I felt uncomfortable spending private time with the president. There was always some new investigation brewing, some new calamity bubbling just below the headlines."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.