By Inauguration Day 2009, the gyrating stock market had bottomed out, and the Dow Jones industrial average had not dipped below 8,000 in four months. The TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) rescue package had been enacted by Bush in October 2008, stopping runs on the banks and mostly restoring financial stability.
Blaming Bush for some of the mess is legitimate in politics, but the housing bubble and collapse -- the catalysts for the September meltdown -- were a bipartisan caper of pushing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to underwrite risky subprime loans to the unqualified who had no business buying homes at inflated prices. Washington insiders ranging from Clintonite Rahm Emanuel (Obama's former chief of staff) and Franklin Raines (a Clinton administration grandee) to Tom Donilon (the current national security advisor), James Johnson (an Obama campaign bundler) and Jamie Gorelick (deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration) got in on the Freddie/Fannie profit-making despite thin banking resumes. Even with the last four months of crisis, Bush still averaged a 5.3 unemployment rate for his eight years in office.
Obama should be congratulated for ordering the successful hit on Osama bin Laden. But the intelligence apparatus and antiterrorism protocols that provided much of the expertise for the mission were well established when Obama entered office -- despite his own prior verbal attacks on Guantanamo Bay, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention and the Patriot Act, all of which he almost immediately embraced without a nod of thanks to his predecessor.
Obama, for example, inherited the controversial Predator drone program, an anathema to liberals during the Bush administration. But Obama expanded the drone missions and in four years approved the killings of seven times as many suspected terrorists as Bush had in eight -- to the sudden silence of the antiwar Left.
It is past time for President Obama to forget Bush, and, like all of his predecessors, make the argument that things are better than when he entered office almost four years ago, and that he deserves the credit for the turnaround.
Voters will weigh that claim. And history will judge George W. Bush on his two terms -- as it will judge Barack Obama's own four (or eight) years in office.