George Bush, Dick Cheney Legacy

The George W. Bush and Dick Cheney legacy as examined by excerpts from the "The Economist" magazine, January 15, 2009.

George W. Bush leaves the White House as one of the least popular and most divisive presidents in American history. At home, his approval rating has been stuck in the 20s for months; abroad, George Bush has presided over the most catastrophic collapse in America's reputation since the second world war. The American economy is in deep recession, brought on by a crisis that forced Mr Bush to preside over huge and unpopular bail-outs.

On Bush's Intellect:

Lack of curiosity also led Mr Bush to suspect intellectuals in general and academic experts in particular. David Frum, who wrote speeches for Mr Bush during his first term, noted that "conspicuous intelligence seemed actively unwelcome in the Bush White House". The Bush cabinet was "solid and reliable", but contained no "really high-powered brains". Karen Hughes, one of his closest advisers, "rarely read books and distrusted people who did". Ron Suskind, a journalist, has argued that Mr Bush created a "faith-based presidency" in which decisions, precisely because they were based on faith, could not be revised subsequently.

On Bush's Policy:

Relentless partisanship led to the politicisation of almost everything Mr Bush did. He used his first televised address to justify putting strict limits on federal funding for stem-cell research, and used the first veto of his presidency to prevent the expansion of that funding. He appointed two "strict constructionist" judges to the Supreme Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, turned his back on the Kyoto protocol, dismissed several international treaties, particularly the anti-ballistic-missile treaty, loosened regulations on firearms and campaigned against gay marriage. His energy policy was written by Mr Cheney with the help of a handful of cronies from the energy industry. His lacklustre attorney-general Alberto Gonzales, who was forced to resign in disgrace, was only the most visible of an army of over-promoted, ideologically vetted homunculi.

On Iraq:

The Iraq war was a case study of what happens when politicisation is mixed with incompetence. A long-standing convention holds that politics stops at the ocean's edge. But Mr Bush and his inner circle labelled the Democrats "Defeaticrats" whenever they were reluctant to support extending the war from Afghanistan to Iraq. They manipulated intelligence to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had close relations with al-Qaeda. This not only divided a country that had been brought together by September 11th; it also undermined popular support for what Mr Bush regarded as the central theme of his presidency, the war on terror.

On Fiscal Responsibility:

His policy of cutting taxes while increasing spending-of simultaneously pursuing big government and small government-dramatically swelled the deficit. He inherited a projected ten-year surplus of $5.6 trillion and bequeaths a ten-year deficit of $6 trillion, assuming his tax cuts remain in place. Hardly the makings of a positive judgment from future historians. The last 3 Republican presidents have accounted for nearly 100% of the increase in debt.

The Bush/Cheney legacy as examined by the CIA World Factbook. Are we still the best?

Metric Rank
Infant Mortality Rate 1
(high score best)
United States ranks 180 out of 225
Life expectancy at birth 2
(low score best)
United States ranks 50 out of 225
Education Expenditures 3
(low score best)
United States ranks 57 out of 182
Incidence of Teenage Pregnancy in G8 4
United States ranks last (worst)
College Graduation Rate 5
(low score best)
United States ranks 14 out of 24
Reading Literacy 6
(low score best)
United States ranks 15 out of 27

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Other Patriotic Sites:
Reagan Corruption - The massive (but under-reported) Reagan Administration corruption - A legacy of death, debt and deceit
The Bush Legacy Tour
Americans United for Change