Was President George W. Bush a good president?

This is likely to turn some heads. Victor Davis Hanson disagrees with the conventional wisdom that George W. Bush was an awful president. He does this mainly by comparing President Bush to current President Barack Obama. Hanson argues that President Obama has either continued or benefitted from many of President Bush’s policies and that the comparison favors Bush. He concludes: “George W. Bush was not as dismal a president as the popular culture and media once assumed — a fact that will grow clearer as the age of Obama continues.”

We don’t yet have the perspective of history on President Bush’s administration. And the matter can’t be adjudicated simply by comparing one president to his successor. Still, those who are accustomed to piling-on number 43 need to reckon with how much number 44 has in common with his predecessor. So this is worth the read.

(HT: Owen Strachan)


  • James Stanton

    Definitely an interesting point of discussion. I think it a bit of a disgrace that many conservatives have difficulty articulating just what was disastrous about the Bush Administration and the biggest reason I can think of is ideological bias. Victor Davis Hanson’s analysis based on an unfavorable comparison to Obama and the rapid relinking through conservative online press highlights the groupthink.

    On fiscal and foreign policy issues the Bush Administration was a massive failure. Bush largely escaped any political damage over the national security failure of 9/11 which makes the Benghazi manufactured media story look like peanuts in comparison.

    Today’s fiscal and foreign policy dilemmas are largely rooted in the failures of the previous administration and previous sessions of Congress. That does not absolve the Democrats who participated in and have largely continued with misguided Bush era policies.

    One of the biggest moral failings of the Bush administration was the policy of torturing prisoners, most of whom received no trial. Not many social conservatives held that administration to account.

  • Matt Privett

    I don’t expect GWB to move up very much in those silly (and mostly wrong) presidential rankings that come out from time to time, because of the political bent of a majority of those doing the ranking. That said, I do believe history will look more kindly on the Bush presidency that most people do now.

  • John Caneday

    So Bush is a good president because Obama is a terrible president? Hanson’s whole argument hinges on the premise that Obama is doing everything Bush did–but bigger and worse. This makes Bush a better president than his reputation?

    I’ll grant that Bush wasn’t as bad as Obama, but to restore the reputation of the Bush presidency by showing how bad Obama is, is ridiculous.

    The fact of the matter is that as long as Republicans, conservatives, and especially Christians hold firmly to the notion that Bush was even a reasonably capable president, our nation will continue on the path of apostasy and destruction.

    Bush was a terrible president for a whole host of reasons which cannot be overcome by the occasional “good” policy or his disastrous successor. He expanded the powers of the federal government in profound and ungodly ways–just as all his predecessors. He took no meaningful steps to curtail abortion. He took us to war in Iraq on false and unbiblical pretenses. He signed the Patriot Act. He gave us the TSA. He gave us Medicare Part D. He oversaw the housing bubble, gave us Ben Bernanke as the Fed Chair, signed TARP, signed the “stimulus” bill. He legitimized the torture of prisoners. He granted the federal government the ability to detain suspects without due process of law. I could go on, but I suspect this list is sufficient.

    Just because Obama did all this and more doesn’t make Bush a better president than he’s currently perceived. In fact, I would argue it damages his case. Obama wouldn’t dare do all he’s done had not his predecessor prepared the way.

    Bush was a disaster, and the sooner we all recognize this, the sooner the nation will understand what a truly good president would look like and do.

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