By Scott Tibbs, January 27, 2010
Just over a year ago, George W. Bush finished his second term as President. Bush barely won in 2000 and survived a close race to be re-elected in 2004, but the last three years of his presidency were difficult. The Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 and the economy crashed in 2008, and Bush's popularity was low when he left office. One year after he left office, how would I view Bush's time in office?
I'll start with this. I've made no secret of my frustration with Bush over the years, especially with his abandonment of conservative principles. Bush created a brand new federal entitlement with the Medicare prescription drug program and significantly increased the role of the federal government in primary and secondary education, a move that turns the founding principle of state sovereignty upside down. Bush convinced Congress to authorize a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, a move I supported at the time but have since realized was a mistake. Bush was far too aggressive in seeking greater federal law enforcement powers. I opposed the so-called "Patriot Act" from the beginning.
Bush's greatest failure as President, however, was campaign finance "reform." George W. Bush signed a law that regulates the content of political speech, showing great disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a transparent government and individual liberty. I nearly voted Libertarian in 2004 because Bush betrayed basic American values by putting his signature on this abomination. I ultimately voted for Bush because of his pro-life stand and his moral clarity in the War on Terror (more on that later) but if I had it to do over again I would have not voted for Bush. I did vote for Bob Barr in 2008.
Bush's presidency was not all bad. Bush pushed much-needed tax cuts through Congress which brought some boom years before the bottom fell out in 2008. The deficit would have remained balanced had Bush controlled federal spending, because revenue actually went up after the tax cuts were implemented. Bush understood one very important thing: the money Americans earn belongs first and foremost to them, not the government.
While Bush was weak on limited government issues, he was a solid social conservative. He championed efforts to protect marriage as an institution of one man and one woman. My primary issue is opposing abortion, so I appreciate that Bush was also pro-life. He signed a ban on partial-birth abortion that was blocked by President Clinton's veto pen, and openly spoke of the need to create a culture of life. Bush was strong on defending life at all stages, blocking federal funding for embryonic stem cell "research" that requires the destruction of human beings.
George W. Bush also had a moral clarity in the War on Terror. He called the terrorists "evildoers" and understood that we're fighting a war that presents a clear contrast between good and evil. Bush didn't spend enough time on Afghanistan and I belatedly realized that a preemptive invasion of Iraq was an unfortunate error. That said, I reject claims that Bush "lied" to get us into Iraq. Faulty intelligence is not the same as intentional falsehoods.
I believe George W. Bush is a good man and despite the sharp criticisms I have directed at him, I admire him personally. He is a Christian and genuinely wanted to do what is best for America. (His cowardly decision to sign the campaign finance "reform" he once opposed is the sole exception to that.) While I disagree with "No Child Left Behind" and the so-called "Patriot Act", I believe Bush genuinely was doing what he thought was best. His motives on Iraq were honorable, if misguided. Ultimately, though, Bush moved us in a direction of more government, less individual liberty and more power for Washington at the expense of the states. If I had it to do over again, I would not have voted for him.