Difficult as it may be for leftists to accept, President George W. Bush was not perfect. The criticism leveled at him, for instance, regarding the lack of fiscal discipline during his tenure is certainly valid. Vast new entitlement programs were added, including Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. He signed a $300+ billion highway bill, (back when that was real money) after threatening a veto if its cost approached that level. He instituted tariffs on imported steel (though he later removed them). As with all trade protectionist policies, the tariffs increased consumer and business costs, caused job losses, and alienated trade partners, notably Japan, which retaliated with tariffs of its own.
In foreign affairs, he let the situation in Iraq get out of hand, almost to the point of it becoming unsalvagable. He was slow to fire generals (and a Secretary of Defense) who employed failing strategies. He took a heavy carrot, light stick negotiation approach to dealing with North Korea and Iran. The result is that the former now has nukes and the latter soon will.
And, yes, he did not communicate well, at least when speaking extemporaneously. He had difficulty with language - a problem putting ideas into words. I remember him sitting alongside Tony Blair when a reporter asked him to comment on the recent Worldcom scandal. It was excruciating watching him try to formulate a response, which went something like, the...Worldcom...scandal...is...an...outrage... He wasn't even saying anything of consequence. Blair had to look away.
And his body language while speaking was irritating. He had a way of leaning on a lecturn that looked too casual, too undisciplined. And he shrugged too much.
Much has been made of Bush's mispronunciations and misuse of language (like misunderestimate). That was a minor fault. I know a PhD. chemist who, like Bush, pronounces "nuclear", as "nucular". It's a regional trait. Another very smart person I know says sceniero for scenario and adds a "kt" onto some words ending in "n" for no apparent reason. (This person also pronounces "bowel" like "ball" which leads to some awkward misunderstandings). Pronounciation is an individual quirk, indicative of little. Mr. Articulate himself makes embarrasing faux pas. "Corpsman" became "corpseman" twice in the same speech. And it turns out that a favorite Mexican holiday of Obama's is "Cinco de Quatro." But liberals like to giggle about Bush's usage screwups while ignoring their hero's.
Of all of Bush's communication flaws, his worst was his inability or his disinclination to promote and defend his decisions. He rescinded the State of the Union statement that British intelligence claimed Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake uranium from Niger even though every word he spoke about it was true. He never forcefully presented the importance of winning in Iraq and of the disastrous consequences if we didn't (his speech ordering the surge being an exception).
But Bush's positives far outweighed his negatives. He appointed as Secretary of State, the first African-American to ever hold the post and then followed that up with the first African-American woman. These were not token nods to the racial grievance industry but were indicative of a true recognition of racial equality. He cut taxes, ending a recession and initiating a period of more than four years of economic prosperity. Under Bush, federal revenues reached record levels because of, not in spite of, the tax cuts. Bush nominated two brilliant jurists to the Supreme Court. His Justice Department vigorously and successfully prosecuted corporate executives for their roles in the accounting scandals of the Clinton years (e.g. - Enron, Worldcom). He substantially increased U.S. aid to fight the world AIDS epidemic, withdrew from the ABM treaty with Russia which had hampered our efforts to produce an effective missile defense technology, put the dying Kyoto CO2 emissions treaty out of its misery, flipped Pakistan from enemy to ally, strengthened our alliance with the world's largest democracy, India, kept up good relations with China, while holding its leaders accountable for human rights violations (see link to Weiss article below). He was a strong and consistent defender of human rights worldwide.
Bush deposed the Taliban in Afghanistan and severely attrited al-Queda, first in that country and then in Iraq, deposed the world's most dangerous dictator in Iraq and helped plant the seeds of democracy in that country located at the center of the undemocratic Arab - Muslim Middle East, treated friends as friends and enemies as enemies and contrary to liberal mythology, maintained solid relationships with European allies. Probably his most important achievement was constructing the elaborate anti-terrorist apparatus that has kept the homeland free from attack the past 8 1/2 years.
He didn't complain about having to deal with the significant problems he inherited when taking office and despite enduring the most intense, vulgar and hate-filled personal attacks ever heaped upon an American politician, he took it all with a grace that dignified the office of the presidency.
[For the best summation of the Bush legacy, see the Mark Steyn (naturally) link below].
Like the broken clock that's correct twice a day, President Obama has gotten a few things right. He has kept much of the Bush anti-terror apparatus in place, utilizing necessary tools like rendition, wiretaps, tribunals, and intercepts. To the consternation of librarians everywhere, the Patriot Act was renewed. Drone attacks targeting Taliban and al-Queda leaders in the Af-Pak region have been increased dramatically under Obama and were defended by a former critic of Bush anti-terror policies, State Department legal advisor Harold Koh. (Reality bites, Mr. Koh). The terrorist prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, much larger than the one at Guantanamo, is being kept open. Obama has stood relatively firm in Iraq and he's increased our commitment in Afghanistan. He has a good Secretary of Defense in Robert Gates and he made a good decision replacing David McKiernan with Stanley McChrystal as the head general in Afghanistan.
Note that most of the above fall under the category of "What Would Bush Do?"
Now for some of Obama's negatives. By no means is this a comprehensive listing.
He made the terrible choice of nominating the racialist Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court justice. His Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, the man in charge of collecting taxes, is an income tax evader. His Attorney General, Eric Holder, the nation's chief law enforcement officer, as Deputy AG, arranged the clemency of 16 terrorists belonging the Puerto Rican separatist group FALN. The 16 had been responsible for over 130 bombings and the murders of innocent Americans.
Obama signed an $800+billion (the cost continues to rise) payoff to friends and benefactors and called it a "stimulus package". Meanwhile he's eliminating a true economic stimulus by allowing many of the Bush tax cuts expire next year. He's removed all restraint from federal spending with the 2010 budget at $3.55 trillion up from $3.1 trillion in 2009, a 15% increase. This is all before the real budget busters kick in - Obamacare, $2.3 trillion /10 years (yeah, right) and, if he can get it, cap and trade - $670 billion. By mid-decade, our total national debt will reach $20 trillion, surpassing our GDP. This is criminal. Generational theft on a massive scale.
Obama has failed to support the Free Trade Agreements that Bush had negotiated with Panama, South Korea and, most importantly, Colombia, the most aggressively anti-Chavista nation in Latin America. Obama has reached out to the world's worst tyrants - Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Assad, Putin while at the same time shunning our allies, Israel, Great Britain, Indonesia, Australia, the Czech Republic, Poland. The Saudi king gets a bow - the Prime Minister of Israel gets tsuris. Iranian dissidents are ignored, their oppressors are treated with respect. When Chavez clone Jose Zelaya was rightly deposed as president by the Honduran government for illegally attempting to extend his reign, Obama considered the act a "coup". His Secretary of State, apropos of nothing, abruptly suggested that our ally Great Britain should consider giving the Falkland Islands back to Argentina. "When you give Texas back to Mexico" would have been an appropriate and justified response from the Brits. Obama betrayed our close Eastern European allies by cancelling plans to base a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The system was intended to protect Europe from the threat of Iranian missiles. No matter - Russia protested, Obama caved. BBC news noted that the cancellation delighted the Russians who viewed it as the great diplomatic and military victory it was.
Obama's AG Holder wants to provide the terrorists that perpetrated the attacks of 9/11 the world's largest soundboard to preach their message of hate. Granting them full American constitutional rights, he plans to hold civilian trials in the shadow of the site of the atrocity. In an impulsive, thoughtless attempt to distance himself from his predecessor, Obama made the dangerous and (fortunately) unachievable promise to shut down the state of the art terrorist prison facility at Guantanamo. His Justice Department failed to adequately interrogate Farouk Abdulmutullab after he attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day. Fresh from a terrorist training camp in Yemen, the would be bomber could have provided vital life saving intelligence. For Obama, proving that he's the anti-Bush by insisting on civilian trials for foreign born terrorists gets a higher priority than protecting American lives.
In stark contrast to his predecessor, Obama is a whiner. He can't handle criticism, striking back at, among others, Fox News, tea partiers, and Rush Limbaugh. Their crime? Withholding the fawning adulation he's accustomed to receiving from the mainstream media and his buddies in academia and Hollywood. Selling himself during the campaign as a politically moderate, postpartisan, postracial, pragmatic promoter of civility, Obama is none of these things. His rhetoric is inflammatory and confrontational. Far from bringing people together, he's deeply polarizing. And he is dishonest. He tried to sell the health care plan as an economic necesssity, saying it would bring down costs and reduce the deficit while at the same time increasing demand and subsidizing millions of additional beneficiaries.
Obama has his own body language issues. Mark Steyn (among others) has commented about his resemblance to Mussolini - the upraised chin, the haughty manner. (Not to mention the similar statist ideology). His narcissism borders on the pathological. His speeches are notoriously self-referential, repeatedly peppered with "I", "me" and "my". The teleprompter is his security blanket, accompanying him to an elementary school on one occasion. He drones - In a response to a woman's complaint that Obamacare would raise taxes, he responded with a 17 minute, 2500 word harangue which didn't even address the subject. Worst and most irritating of all is his pedanticism. He talks down to his audience, lecturing it. It's a speaking style that just begs for satire. That no impersonators have come along, (or none with talent - that Saturday Night Live guy is no good) says much about the political tilt of today's humor industry. One enduring myth is that of Obama's eloquence. His failure to sway public opinion with incessant speaking appearances reflects his lack of oratory skills. He couldn't convince the IOC to hold the 2016 Olympics in Chicago and got no concessions from developing nations in cutting their CO2 emissions at the Copenhagen conference. Indeed, while there, Obama was treated as the lightweight he his is by China's premier Wen Jiabao, who twice refused to attend meetings with him.
I won't add anything to what I've already posted about the health care debacle. I'll just point out that more than anything, the more than year long crusade confirms that Obama is fundamentally a socialist. He meant it when he described his brief stint in the private sector as "working behind enemy lines". That he doesn't call for total government control of production, (Hayek's definition of socialism), is just a recognition of the political reality he faces. Advocating pure socialist policies would be a certain career ender for Obama and finish the Democrats as a major party. Instead he just pushes the edge of the envelope as much as he thinks he can. As it is, enough of his true ideology has been exposed to drive his approval ratings down to the low forties.
Further cementing his socialist bona fides, Obama has given appointments to left wing radicals - there's no other term that fits - Van Jones, Anita Dunn, Craig Becker, Kevin Jennings, Valerie Jarrett, Mark Lloyd - the list goes on.
He associated closely with anti-American radicals during his ascendancy - the racist ranter Jeremiah Wright, Palestinian propagandist Rashid Khalidi, terrorist bomber Bill Ayers among them. (A bumper sticker I observed recently states it well - "Osama and Obama Both Have Friends That Have Bombed The Pentagon"). That Obama regards this great nation as unexceptional helps to explain his apology fetish. The Heritage Foundation has compiled a list of his top ten apologies. (link below).
One absolutely essential characteristic of any president (I believe) is having a deep, reverential pride in his country.
This photograph alone should have disqualified him from holding the office.
Barack Obama is unfit for his job. Before attaining the presidency he had no executive experience and no significant accomplishments. His deficiency is made apparent by his performance. Let us survive the next 2 1/2 years and then throw the bum out.
As for the question posed by that billboard, an answer is provided by a former Syrian dissident, Ahed Al-Hendi. Hendi was jailed in his country for the crime of browsing pro-democracy websites and was a beneficiary of Bush's strong pro-democracy agenda.
From an op-ed by Bari Weiss in Saturday's WSJ :
Mr. Hendi was one of the lucky ones: He's now living in Maryland as a political refugee where he works for an organization called Cyberdissidents.org. And this past Monday, he joined other international dissidents at a conference sponsored by the Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University to discuss the way digital tools can be used to resist repressive regimes.
He also got to meet the 43rd president. In a private breakfast hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Bush, Mr. Hendi's message to the former president was simple: "We miss you." There have been "a lot of changes" under the current administration, he added, and not for the better.
By the way - I want that billboard message on a T-shirt.
Obama apology list