I believe that history will eventually smile on George W. Bush and regard him as a truly great president.
That's not to say that he has served perfectly (but who has?). Although the war in Iraq was necessary (and was not in any way preemptive, by the way), Bush and Colin Powell chose to make the most sensational case for the war before the United Nations and the United States. When "weapons of mass destruction" became the catchphrase of the conflict, Bush opened the door for the carping that has dogged him for a full term. He should simply have made the case that the first Gulf war had never completely ended; that Iraq had brazenly disregarded the terms of the cease-fire; that since the cease-fire Iraq had repeatedly committed acts of war against allied aircraft and other assets; and that it was high time for the United Nations to shock to world by actually doing what it had promised it would do unless Iraq met her obligations to the world. Bush and Powell did give some attention to these core elements of the need to subdue Iraq, but they wrongly allowed the much sexier notion of "Chemical Ali" to become the lynchpin of the public's endorsement for the war.
Bush's flirtation with the entitlement society—nay, his all-out torrid affair—has birthed an illegitimate scion of the party of Reagan in the form of Medicare prescription drug coverage. Bush and the now-defeated Republican Congress needed to enter a twelve-step program to wean themselves off of the tit-for-tat of selling government largesse for votes. They especially needed to do so since the votes that they want to court never seem to come through for them—have you heard any liberals patting Bush and the GOP on the back for Medicare Part D during this campaign? Bush further stumbled incoherently through the embryonic stem cell situation, and his Department of Justice apparently lacks, at times, the courage to stand up against items so morally clear as slavery and human trafficking.
By the way, with John Kerry, I also get a little nervous when I hear President Bush attempt to say "nuclear."
But none of these things, important as they are, are sufficient to dim the truly great things about President Bush. For that millisecond in 2003 when the nation was behind President Bush, our worldwide influence was so strong and our foreign policy so effective that even Mohammar…Muhamar…Khadafi…Ghaddafi…Lybia set aside her terrorist ways and came running to the Red, White, and Blue in contrition. Bush's idea was the right one—really it isn't Bush's idea at all, but goes back at least as far as Teddy Roosevelt's big stick.
Even while dragging along a nation largely populated with self-absorbed addicts to instant gratification, Bush has managed to persevere in achieving what is now a far cry from the dismal outcomes predicted by folks like Barack Hussein Obama. It is only at the prospect of Bush's imminent departure and likely replacement with a weak-kneed dove that the Putins of this world are once more emboldened to wreak open skulduggery upon the world.
Bush is smarter than talk show hosts will acknowledge, but intellect is not his strength. He is more compassionate than can possibly be acknowledged by the party that has shackled generations to a debilitating and humiliating public welfare program, but this is not his great strength, either. Bush's greatest attribute—and the one that will garner him praise from another generation someday—is that he's going to say and do what seems right, and in doing so he doesn't give a rip what the U.N. or the latest Zogby poll or anybody else has to say about it. It is an attribute that tends toward stubbornness, and I'm sure that the President has to guard against that foible, but when pointed in the right direction, stubbornness is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Nowhere was this determination on Bush's part on any greater display than it was this week at a Protestant church in China. There the President of the United States of America had the temerity to lecture the Chinese thugs about Religious Liberty. "No state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion," saith the Prophet W. And to that I say a hearty "Amen." George W. Truett was willing to say much the same thing in a lengthier speech a century ago, and for doing so he has been lauded recently by Baptists. As for me, I'm thankful for Truett's oration…I really am. But you've got to acknowledge that it takes very little courage to speak boldly for religious liberty on the Capitol steps surrounded by Baptists in the 1900s. For a man to stand on the steps of a church in Communist China and deliver that message (and to do so over the objections of his advisors, I guarantee you) takes a kind of moral courage that most men lack. Especially since a great many of the Baptists who trumpet about Religious Liberty the loudest will be the last to give him any credit for it and the first to stab him in the back.
Now I ask you, can you name a recent president who had the moral courage and clarity to say such a thing? Can you imagine either of our current candidates doing it?
The last monetary contribution that I made to a Democrat candidate for anything was made to a congressman in another state. Several members of my family made a donation in exchange for a few minutes of the congressman's time to lobby for a bit of backbone toward the oppressors of Chinese Christians. Our pleas (and even our dollars) fell upon deaf ears. "Why, we can't offend the Chinese!" Yes, God forbid that the duplicitous, pompous, repressive, brutal, pastor-arresting, Tibet-stomping, Olympics-opening-ceremony falsifying, little girl substituting, second child aborting Chinese Communists get their feelings hurt! We were told that trying to help Chinese Christians would actually only hurt them, provoking the Chinese government to get really tough on the poor Chinese Christian church.
Well I've got news for that congressman and for anyone else listening. Being a Chinese Christian ain't no Sunday picnic right now, and from everything that I see, the Chinese Christians are willing to suffer a bit in the hope of a greater platform to share the gospel of Christ with their fellow Chinese and with the rest of the world.
The greater heroes in the Chinese struggle for soul freedom are people like Hua Huiqi (HT: Dallas Morning News editorial "China Lies about Religious Freedom"), a pastor of a Christian house church in China who was detained by police on the way to worship with President Bush. President Bush knows that he's going to get to board Air Force One and come back home after making that speech. Hua is in hiding today, somewhere in China, without hope of being escorted by Secret Service onto a 747 and out of the grasp of Communist brutes. But at least he knows today that the leader of the free world has dared this week actually to state that he is in favor of the world being free. One should hope that such sentiments would be a baseline qualification for presiding over our nation, rather than a criterion differentiating the great from the mediocre occupants of the office.
Farewell, President Bush. No matter which choice we make in November, I, for one, will miss you.