Bush’s own legacy will be affected by who succeeds him. Ronald Reagan received great press after leaving office in part because a Republican followed him for four years -- quite the opposite from the senior George Bush who was thrown out of office in 1992 and blamed for assorted sins the next eight years. Likewise, compare the image of Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton when a president from the opposite party followed each into office.
Second, public perceptions, such as ongoing consumer confidence or support for the war, can dramatically affect policy success or failure. Defending past decisions can sometimes improve their outcomes.
Third, it would elevate the arguments of all three candidates if someone could remind them that energy and food problems, foreign policy crises and economic woes usually involve bad and worse choices.
The American people are more interested in exactly how they are going to improve things, rather than hearing each hour how our collective problems are simply the fault of one man. Searing “Bush did it” into the public conscious won't resolve our energy, economic or foreign policy challenges.
The truth is that America is providing unprecedented amounts of money to address the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Tax cuts brought in greater, not less total revenue. International trade agreements created more, not fewer, jobs. Security measures at home, and losses suffered by terrorists abroad, in part explain the absence of a second 9/11.
And drilling in ANWR and off the coasts and building more nuclear power plants, refineries, and clean coal plants -- if the Congress would only approve -- could provide a short-term mitigation of energy prices until we reach a new generation of clean-burning and renewable fuels.
George Bush could learn from "Give 'em Hell, Harry." A disliked Truman never went silent into the night, but defended his record until the very end -- and was ultimately rewarded for it.