John Hinderaker has a lengthy and sober assessment of President Bush’s tenure in office. Definitely read the whole thing, but here’s the linchpin of the post:
In assessing the pluses and minuses of the Bush administration, one always returns to Iraq. Many think that Bush was too slow to change strategies after sectarian violence erupted in 2006; others think that he deserves great credit for backing the surge and ultimately winning the war. The second proposition, I think, is indisputable, while the first is questionable. I’m inclined to agree with Dick Cheney that it’s wrong to suggest that nothing good happened in Iraq until 2007.
With the benefit of a bit of hindsight, it seems to me that Bush’s failings on Iraq were mostly political. It was always obvious that the biggest challenge in Iraq would not be felling Saddam, but rather what would come afterward. The ethnic and sectarian divisions in that country were well understood, and many (like me) wondered whether Iraq was really a country that could stay together once its tyrant was deposed. But Bush failed to adequately prepare the public for the tough, ambiguous conflict that was sure to ensue once Saddam was gone.
This failure was especially regrettable since the war, when launched, was not Bush’s war but America’s. Large majorities in the House and Senate voted to authorize the war, including most leading Democrats. But because Bush failed to prepare the public for the post-major combat stage, the Democrats could plausibly take the view that they had signed on only for the easy overthrow of a dictator. When the inevitable messiness ensued, they double-crossed the President. That was shameful, but it was also foreseeable, and it was enabled by Bush’s failure to do the political work necessary to educate the American public.
In the end, the greatest failures of the Bush administration were political. Bush was the first MBA President, and he always seemed to think that results would carry the day. He followed Lincoln, who wrote that if events bore him out, no one would remember his critics, while if events did not bear him out, a thousand angels swearing he was right wouldn’t make any difference.
That’s fine as far as it goes, but Lincoln went to considerable lengths, sometimes to the derogation of the war effort, to make sure that public opinion in the North stayed with him. And he was, in the event, saved by the victories won by Grant and Sherman.
As John writes, “Bush’s great failing was that his focus was almost exclusively on policy, and he was unwilling to pay adequate attention to politics.” And its too bad–because had he reminded voters of the continuity on regime change of his administration and the prior one, the bipartisan support this effort had from 1998 until 2002, and the rank hypocrisy of the left’s pivot on the issue, he could have done much to prop up the GOP in 2006 and 2008. Not to mention his own poll numbers.
Update: “Good luck to you on your travels, Sir. Be well.”
More: “Closed Press.”