The positive side of Bush’s record

Some days it just doesn’t pay to get up in the morning. President Bush must have felt that way on a growing number of occasions in the last four years as he has watched his presidency slip into the depths of a faltering economy, two wars that have gone on far too long, his administration’s miserable failure in dealing with two hurricanes that nearly wiped out a huge swath of the Gulf Coast, and approval ratings so low they cost his party much of its vitality.

He even told ABC’s nightly news anchor, Charlie Gibson, recently that he wasn’t prepared to be a wartime president and regretted that intelligence failures led him into bad assumptions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Friends of the beleaguered president have been looking around for something indisputably positive in his tenure to pass on to history and they think they have found one. They contend that there will be at least some historical redemption for Bush in the fact the last seven years have been free of successful terrorist incursions despite long-term predictions to the contrary following the horror of Sept. 11, 2001. In addition they say that the nation’s readiness to deal with such an incident, even those involving weapons of mass destruction, are a thousand times improved over that traumatic day because of the president’s stubborn refusal to be swayed by those who claim his remedies often have gone too far.

So Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff started off a session with reporters recently paying tribute to "the president’s leadership" in the war on terrorism. At the same time he praised the accuracy of a report last week that cited an increasing threat of nuclear or biological attack on the United States both at home and abroad. He said much more has to be done if the nation’s safety is to be maintained. It all had the aspect of man who fell off a 10-story building and was heard to say as he passed each floor, "well, so far so good."

Does Chertoff, a former federal judge, agree that there have been valid criticisms of the White House’s policies for dealing with the terrorist threat, that aspects of the Patriot Act and the use of long banned interrogation methods have tarnished the American image? One doesn’t get everything right in these matters, he said, when "your house is on fire" you do what you can to save it. In hindsight critics might say you would have done better to run through this door or that, but you had to do the best possible at the time.

Bush’s unrelenting detractors argue that the fact terrorist activity here has been relatively benign during the years following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the downing by brave passengers of an airliner on its way to do even more harm is mostly just luck. But that is as unfair as it is untrue because it diminishes the role the president’s policies, like them or not, have played in thwarting further assaults on U.S. soil by al Qaeda and other groups.

The heightened awareness of most local, state and national security forces here is in sharp contrast, for instance, to those in India where only 10 men were able to kill more than 170, wound more than 300 and hold a city of 15 million at bay for nearly three days. Adding to the shame of India’s lack of preparedness was the disclosure that the nation’s authorities had been warned of a pending attack by sea.

One might challenge contentions that Bush should get credit for the absence of major terrorist activity at home. But to do so would be to deny the long-held belief that what happens on a president’s watch accrues to him either favorably or unfavorably. The historic balance sheet for Bush is heavily weighted toward the debit side. It might just be that this important asset –a hiatus in domestic horror –will help to some degree to offset the negatives.

(E-mail Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at thomassondan(at)


  1. storky

    So What!

    It had been more than eight years between the first World Trade Center bombing and the last one. The fact that Bush HAD actionable intelligence as evidence by the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing entitled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US, meant that the attacks could have been disrupted if not foiled altogether.

    This presidency was a Clusterfuck of epic proportion. Anyone who would dare defend it is at best deluded, but more likely sociopathic.

  2. JudyB

    Bush said he wasn’t prepared to be a “wartime president” however he and his cromies started the war, and in the wrong country at that. He seemed quite proud of this title, until it became obvious that he was indeed a “clusterfuck” as president.(thanks storky, for the perfect description) The only positive side to this president is…ummm????, hell, lets face it…there isn’t one, unless is that he will be leaving soon, though sadly folks…not soon enough for most of the world.

  3. acf

    No one will ever convince me that Bush didn’t run for president with the idea that he would finish what his father didn’t, and get Saddam Hussein, and if along the way he could exert dominion over the Middle East oil, well, it was there. So, if there was anything that he should have been prepared for, it was as a president fighting a war.

    As far as keeping us safe from terrorism, others, including his father and Clinton did it without the all pervading attacks on our civil liberties and privacy, and the overbearing inconvenience of trying to board a plane at an airport, much less see someone off. Most of that is for show. If they want to prevent another plane from being used as a guided missile, just secure the cockpit and harden the avionics system. I know terrorist attacks occurred under both presidents, but only junior had 9/11 on his watch.

  4. douin

    Guess that people still prefer to be lulled to sleep by lies and evasions, rather than face the real reason why there has not been, so far, another ‘attack against the Homeland’. Until we get brave enough to insist that the Media ‘tell it like it is’ we will continue to live in the Land of Make Believe.
    Bush got a real charge out of strutting around in a borrowed flight suit, ‘playing like’ a Wartime president. Until he tripped and fell flat on his face and his dirty underwear was shown to the world. Now that he has been shown to be the empty suit he was all along, what can he do now to change the world’s opinion of his bad decisions and wrong policies ? Nothing…but like a cornered mad dog, he can wreak even more damage before he is finished. Remember, all of his Handlers are still lurking , snarling and waiting in hiding for another chance to complete what they planned to do.
    I wonder how many other Americans resent as I do having our country referred to as the ‘Homeland’. To me, it is a throwback (intentional ?) to Hitler’s designation of Germany as the Fatherland. Chertoff’s idea ? Quite revealing, actually.

  5. ErnestoCHB

    Ernesto Ramos PhD:I would not “put it past” Charlie Gibson to make up that hooey, milarky, and baloney about Bush saying there were no WMDs in Iraq. Is not Charlie Gibson a close friend of Dan (I Have Phony Documents Against Bush) Rather. Bush was aware that the British found 50 Russian MIGs hidden in Iraq.

    Last I checked, a Russian MIG was more than capable of inflicting horrendous death and destruction on thousands of people, JUST ONE RUSSIAN MIG. What was Saddam Hussein’s “delivery device” when he personally massacred the thousands of KURDS in northern Iraq? FIFTY (50) MIGs were found and probably sold by England. No source ever said the 50 MIGs were destroyed.

    Charlie Gibson would not be the first “reporter” to lamblast Bush by making things up and will not be the last.

  6. barak

    The only positive about Bush/Cheney’s record is that they’re leaving and the disaster will end on Jan 20, 2009.

  7. CheckerboardStrangler

    There is nothing that could convince because quite simply the documentation is there which PROVES that the Bush administration had fully prepared for a planned invasion of Iraq prior to the President even taking the Oath of Office.

    Bush, and his entire crew are on record saying that they fully intend to invade, overthrow and occupy Iraq upon taking power.