Bush betrayed the trust of conservatives who elected him

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 19, 2009

The exit interviews with George and Laura Bush are all complete. Including his years as governor of Texas, “Dubya” becomes a private citizen Tuesday for the first time since 1995.

His grade as president? Despite what were undoubtedly good intentions on his part and the fact that the deck was stacked against him, it would have to be an “F.”

Most of the interviews focused on Iraq.

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The war there, with the exception of the terror attacks on that horrible day in September 2001, is certainly the most visual and traumatic event of Bush’s tenure.

Unlike so many others, I don’t put much stock in the weapons of mass destruction rant or Saddam Hussein’s connection (none, directly) to the events of 9/11.

That’s because it’s not disputed almost all nations recognized Saddam for what he was — a maniacal, delusional, destabilizing force in the Middle East. He had killed at least 300,000 of his own people because he knew (or suspected) they would kill him if they got the chance. America has lost 4,226 soldiers, 3,404 of them in combat, since the invasion. But somebody had to take Saddam out. And Bush decided the United States would lead the coalition that did it in a matter of days.

“Management” and “war” are concepts not easily reconciled. When I was in Iraq in early 2006, the American notion that forces could be kept to a minimum so as not to appear to be an occupying army while still being an occupying army was falling apart. It was a big, big mistake not to follow the admonition of Colin Powell and others to establish and maintain an overwhelming military presence. Al-qaida and others exploited what they saw as an American lack of will and prolonged the war by creating new divisions and rivalries and delaying efforts to launch a civilian government.

Bush gets major points for the surge, but by the time he made that decision there were only two choices — get tough or get out.

The far more insidious failure of the Bush presidency was the complete betrayal of the fiscal conservatives who elected him.

Roll back the tape four years and the president now departing was saying the same things as Barack Obama, who will take office Tuesday, is saying now.

Bush said he would be “transformational.” He would “work across the aisle” for solutions and end “partisan rancor.”

While there’s every reason to believe he was sincere, he was handicapped by an election so close that it took a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to put him on the podium to take the oath. For millions, that made Bush an illegitimate president from the start. And, yes, the media is dominated by liberals who were not exactly interested in greasing the skids to help the occupant of the oval office. It was a lot more fun to mock his halting speech, silly grin and butchering of even the simplest phrases.

Those excuses, however, are small potatoes compared to how Bush let Republicans and Democrats go buck naked wild with the federal treasury, creating new entitlements and not addressing those already underfunded. Even before last fall’s meltdown and bailout legislation, Bush had overseen the largest and fastest increase in the federal deficit of any president in history — nearly doubling it to well over $9 trillion.

Iraq is important, but for not offering a peep of protest at the explosion of federal spending, Bush gets the failing grade. The consequences of that will be with us for generations.

Credit is rarely given where due — Bill Clinton was the father of NAFTA and pushed the deregulation that led to the subprime mortgage and general Wall Street implosion — but Bush can’t disown the fact that he campaigned as a conservative — yet no president in history has shown less concern about the public purse.


Charlie Mitchell is executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. Write to him at Box 821668, Vicksburg, MS 39182, or e-mail cmitchell@vicksburgpost.com.