If President Bush is about to leave office with one of the lowest approval ratings in history. There are many reasons for this poor rating.
The first could be the plummeting economy. During a bad economy people often automatically blame the president, seeing his role as more legislative than executive, despite the fact that the president does not actually exercise direct control over the economy. Since Bush has been the president during a period of major economic instability he will likely have a negative reputation, even after he leaves office.
Another element that will tarnish Bush’s historical reputation is, of course, the Iraq War. Immediately after we entered Iraq, many Americans wondered why we were engaged in a nation that had little connection to terrorism. Afghanistan had direct and undisputed links to Al Qaeda; Iraq did not. In the case of the Iraq War, we were never directly attacked by Saddam Hussein and his army prior to invasion. America was the aggressor. Nobody in the Bush administration was able to give a satisfactory explanation of what America gained from the Iraq War, except for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be non-existent. Some will still maintain that, in the long run, the Iraq War will be seen as a critical component of the War on Terror. However, there is no consensus on whether or not the conflict in Iraq has actually contributed to stopping terrorism. If anything, it has contributed to causing more terrorist activity in an already destabilized Iraq.
When Bush ran for his first term, he ran on a platform of morality and Christian values, and people generally consider Bush to be strong on pro-life and pro-family issues. However, his record does not show strong evidence of this. Although he did help illegalize partial-birth abortion, there are a variety of different avenues that one can still take to obtain a partial-birth abortion. He opposed federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, although he did not outlaw embryonic stem cell research. Since pro-family legislation has been left to the states (for now), Bush has had no serious effect on issues concerning homosexuality. Overall, Bush has had no serious legislation in favor of moral issues important to conservatives. So, it is not likely that the Christian conservative base will remember Bush as a great moral leader.
Still, Bush supporters might point out that he has kept our country safe. While it is true that our country has not been attacked since 9/11, we have to ask at what cost? Besides the actual monetary costs that a war requires, what else have we sacrificed? For starters, our freedoms and civil liberties have been compromised through the enactment of The Patriot Act which President Bush advocated. The Patriot Act forces us to surrender our civil liberties guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights. Many would argue that sacrificing our liberties is essential to national security. When confronted with this argument one might remember the words of John Stuart Mill who said: “A people may want a free government, but…if by momentary discouragement or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions…they are more or less unfit for liberty.” Republicans will often characterize those who don’t support The Patriot Act as liberals, dismissing their arguments as partisan politics. However, Woodrow Wilson, the first modern liberal president was behind the Committee of Public Information, a very similar policy to that of the Patriot Act. Also, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a similar policy in World War II. Many American realize that The Patriot Act is a dire subversion of American freedoms, which is uncharacteristic for a GOP president to support. As a result, Bush’s legacy is likely to be stained in the eyes of both traditional conservatives and liberals for his support of The Patriot Act.
The ultimate question is: how will Bush be remembered? Will he be remembered for getting America into a war its citizens did not support? Causing an economic crisis? Letting down the Christian right? Or, will he be remembered for revoking the civil liberties of Americans? While one cannot blame President Bush for everything negative that has occurred during his two terms, there are many policies he has initiated that Americans detest. With all of this in mind, Bush will not be considered a great president as he has no outstanding qualities or credentials which warrant our favorable attention. Many of the most prominent things he has accomplished are not popular, and while he was not a terrible president, he will never – and should never – be compared to Teddy Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan.
Popularity: 10% [?]