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President Bush: The first four years
By Bruce Walker
It is not too soon to make an assessment of the first term of the Bush Administration. While this record may seem a mixed bag to many conservatives, future objective historians may find it among the most remarkable in American history.
Governor George W. Bush refused to yield the most bitterly contested post-election battle since 1876 or perhaps since 1824. The two men who won the presidency in those elections, Rutherford B. Hayes and John Quincy Adams, though wonderful men, were crippled presidents. They were unable to accomplish much, if anything, good in their only term in the White House.
President-elect Bush inherited an economy which, despite all the smoke and mirrors of the Clinton Presidency, had already entered a recession and was on its way into a full-fledged depression.
How bad were things when Bush was sworn in as president? NASDAQ, the high-tech dynamo of our economic growth, had lost more than half its value in the last year of the Clinton Administration. Americans had lost, quite literally, trillions of dollars in wealth. During this period, the Clinton NASDAQ Crash was even greater than the Crash of 1929.
Within months after taking office, Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont gave Tom Daschle what the American people had given Republicans: the right to organize the United States Senate. In spite of hollow screeching about his illegitimacy, President Bush won a desperately needed tax cut through Congress.
Then, of course, came September 11. While Leftists, who politicize everything, see this only as more evidence of "Bush luck," let us consider for a moment what would have happened if September 11 had not occurred.
The economic recovery had begun by September and the blow to the American and the global economy which September 11 produced was staggering. Without September 11, the federal government today would be running surpluses, the stock exchange would be at record highs, inflation would be low and so would unemployment. President Bush would be a shoo-in for reelection.
September 11 also dramatically complicated relations with other industrial democracies, and without September 11, Democrats would not be able to point to the rudeness of Jacques Chirac or the backstabbing of Gerhard Schroeder as evidence of our isolation. A peaceful and prosperous America makes it easy for an American president to look good in foreign lands and to look better at home.
Before considering how September 11 was a great political blessing to President Bush, consider whether the Korean War was a boon to Harry Truman, the Vietnam War as a boon to Lyndon Johnson or the Iranian hostage crisis was a boon to Jimmy Carter. All these events wrecked these Democrat presidents and made them one-term presidents.
President Bush, by contrast, used this attack to fight and to win battles against evil. It has worked. Two nations ruled by monstrous regimes will now be ruled by pacific, relatively free and fairly democratic governments. Will Afghans and Iraqis like us? Will they thank us? If so, then they will be the great exception to American Exceptionalism. Have the Japanese, the Germans or the French ever thanked us? Do their history books speak of the unprecedented generosity of American conquests? Or are they quietly envious and bitter about our goodness? Yet is the world not much better without Nazism, Napoleon and Nipponese imperialism?
Terrorists have spent almost three feverish years trying to duplicate September 11. They have failed utterly. Even their efforts to intimidate the limp democracies of Europe are a mixed bag. While they won in Spain, they lost in Greece. Political parties more sympathetic, not less sympathetic, to America are set to gain power in Germany and in Britain.
There is a sense that it is the radical Arab world and radial Islam, not sane and decent people, who are coming unraveled. Iran is in turmoil. Libya is openly seeking peace. Syria is increasingly isolated. When the dominos of hate begin to fall, they will fall fast.
Does this resemble anything in recent history? Yes, it does. It resembles most the last decade of the Cold War. Europe then, as now, is a sullen bystander ready to reap the rewards. As Swedes said during the Second World War: "If the Nazis will, we are Nordic; if the Nazis lose, we are democrats."
When President Bush takes the oath of office again in about six months, the monarchs of Damascus, Teheran and other despotic regimes will beat a path to Washington to seek the best terms of surrender, because when President Bush takes his second oath of office, they know that they are beaten.
Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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