As the days wane in the tenure of George W. Bush as the 43rd president of the United States,the natural query is: What did he accomplish and what will he be remembered for?
It's fair to state that this president has faced challenges that few who served have. When he took office in 2001, he inherited a recession. Then there were the exposure and prosecution of corporate greed and corruption by Enron, WorldCom, and others. And then there was the largest attack ever to our homeland, by al Qaeda on 9/11, which was followed by a well thought out and swift response.
In his two-term tenure as our president, Bush prosecuted two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq against tyrants and terrorists committed to harming us and our allies; he presided over the largest reorganization of the U.S. government with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security; he presided over the most extensive reorganization of our intelligence agencies and created the position of intelligence chief; he responded to the largest natural disaster to hit America, Hurricane Katrina; he presided over the largest transformation of the military; he faced a historic collapse of our housing markets, financial institutions, and industries; he instituted historic legislation to keep America safer with the enactment of the Patriot Act and FISA; he faced the national disaster of Space Shuttle Columbia and the task of rebuilding that program; he had the duty to appoint and seek the confirmation of one Supreme Court justice and the Supreme Court chief justice, and the list goes on.
The best that can be said of the presidency of George W. Bush is that he kept us safe and had the foresight to create and re-create government institutions and infrastructure to do just that. His responses to the overwhelming challenges he has faced were carried out with calm, honesty, and best intentions.
Other notable accomplishments include No Child Left Behind, the education bill that improved the accountability and performance of students and teachers; expanded membership in NATO to include new democracies and allies; the reformation of Medicare, which added prescription drug benefits to over 40 million Americans; strengthening of America's healthcare systems through the creation of health saving accounts; providing unprecedented resources for our veterans; enacting sweeping energy reform with the signing of the first comprehensive energy bill in a generation; keeping taxes low, which created growth and full employment for almost his entire tenure; providing more funding to fight AIDS in America and Africa than any previous president or any government on Earth; and presiding over the most extensive and collegial presidential transition in our nation's history.
The worst that can be said of the Bush presidency is that some who served him and our country were not competent or well intended. When I came to the White House, I was told that my service was an opportunity and not a career. I was told to serve and then know when it was time to move on. I did just that; others did not. I believe a president is best served by those who serve and move on. Turnover at the highest levels is very healthy and necessary. A president has to know when to move people out who have either overstayed their welcome or are no longer valuable in their service.
At the end of the day, no leaders have ever been appreciated in their time. It is only after time that a full and fair assessment can be made of their accomplishments and failures. I believe history will be kind to this president. He is a man of principle and honor who served the nation he loves with the best of intentions and in the face of historic, diverse, and unprecedented challenges.
Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush 2001-2004.