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Slade Gorton
Political leader

Slade Gorton

A former U.S. Senator and Washington State Attorney General, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.

Spectacular Success and Failure

The positive high point of George Bush's presidency was his leadership in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He galvanized a united people in favor of a decisive attack on the Al Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan, giving that nation at least the opportunity to remake itself into a rational society.

His reorganization of the federal government's anti-terrorism agencies and his positive response to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission are clearly connected with the absence of a single terrorist incident in the United States for more than eight years.

In Iraq, his leadership in the formal war against the Saddam Hussein regime was decisive and successful, and his unswerving advocacy of the surge has turned imminent defeat into probable victory, leaving the Obama administration with a far less difficult challenge than it would have faced had Obama's own proposals been adopted.

As a political leader, President Bush was successful in regaining a Republican Congress in 2002 and his own reelection two years later, but was a spectacular failure thereafter, primarily responsible for the two worst Republican election disasters in sixty years.

Failed leadership in Iraq from mid-2003 until the surge four years later is perhaps the greatest indictment of the Bush years. It is coupled with an eight-year absence of leadership in domestic policies, in which the Obama presidency might just as well have succeeded that of Bill Clinton without interruption.

By Slade Gorton

 |  January 5, 2009; 10:59 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Perhaps the greatest vindication of the Bush administration is the fact that Obama seems to be adopting a carbon copy of the policies pursued over the past 8 years.

Posted by: kyoukai | January 6, 2009 4:18 PM
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President Bush also knew that he should not cut taxes - the congress dominated by republicans alerted members of his administration in October 2000 that the trade deficit posed a significant threat to the US economy and that cutting taxes would be taking a sledge hammer to the economy.

He must have also known that not paying for an expensive war causes significant damage as well - there are plenty of economists around that would have showed him why.

Posted by: agapn9 | January 6, 2009 3:42 PM
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President Bush's greatest success is in the AIDS fight in Africa. It also marks perhaps his only success.

He did not "galvanize a united America" after 9/11: he told us to go shopping.

By elevating loyalty and the party-line above expertise and skill, he gave us "Brownie" in New Orleans, the total debacle that is the Interior Department, an EPA staffed by industry insiders, the mockery of the Constitution that characterizes the Justice Department, and the blissful ignorance at regulatory agencies that enabled the current financial crisis.

The only achievements on Bush's watch seem to have been achieved in spite of his efforts, not because of them. There's a reason Mr. Bush is currently beating out James Buchanan on historians' lists of "worst president ever."

Posted by: HerrSlam | January 6, 2009 3:32 PM
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Typo/brain freeze: Rummy NOT ROMNEY

Posted by: LHO39 | January 5, 2009 4:16 PM
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Mr. Bush bragged about not reading newspapers, that his advisers would provide whatever information he needed. Then he did not evaluate his team other than firing any who did not hold onto their ankles tightly enough. It took him five stinking years to fire Romney but two months to push O'Neill and Shinseki over the rail. Disaster after disaster was all over the news but he considered public opinion to be a problem of faulty salesmanship. Cheney went out and lied over and over and I doubt if Bush knew what Cheney was saying or what the truth was. Bush had huge support for action in Afghanistan and total accolades for his UN speech (which turned out to be disingenuous). Bush's domestic moves were not efficient or effective or Constitutional. National debt doubled. The 9/11 attack was as much against the symbols of American hegemony as it was to "kill Americans." That 50% more Americans have died in the wars since 2002 than died on 9/11 should be part of Bush's balance sheet. The maybe half million Iraqis and Afghans dead and the untold number injured and impaired dwarf that number. So any pro Bush cheering has to occur with little honest perception of the Cheney/Bush era.

Posted by: LHO39 | January 5, 2009 4:09 PM
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Iraq/Saddam was a regional pain in the behind and just a regional bully who viewed Al Qaeda as more of a threat to him than an ally; we had no business going into Iraq in the first place, so all that followed was a useless, monumental blunder and expensive, ill-considered diversion of time from where we should have been working to destroy the seeds of terrorism. What's happening in Darfur and other hot spots in the world cry out for attention louder than Iraq ever did. Bush's death grip on Iraq destroyed his reputation and the standing of the US among civilized nations.

Posted by: dnickell | January 5, 2009 3:37 PM
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I've never been totally comfortable with the now official party line that Bush was so great in the aftermath of Sept 11th. He was AWOL for much of the day, flying in parts undisclosed while the country waited. He did make some good attempts to reach out to Muslims and the "bullhorn" moment was good theater but he also allowed Bin Laden's family to leave the country and had dinner with Saudi officials just days after the attack. I understand it's tempting to give him a gentleman's C for effort here but I'm not sure it's deserved.

Posted by: jclark3 | January 5, 2009 2:03 PM
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Mr. Gorton- Don't forget: Under President Bush, the U.S. suffered the most terrible terrorist attack in its history. Despite plenty of warning.

Almost everything Bush did after that was just closing the barn door after the horse ran away. Too late. Al Qaeda had made its point, beyond its wildest dreams. There is no actual evidence that Bush has "prevented" any further Al Qaeda attacks on U.S. soil.

Posted by: chipgower | January 5, 2009 1:53 PM
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"His reorganization of the federal government's anti-terrorism agencies and his positive response to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission are clearly connected with the absence of a single terrorist incident in the United States for more than eight years."

Slade Gorton, what could you possibly be thinking?? Until Bush was put under extreme pressure by other politicos actually concerened with the rule-of-law and protecting America, the only reorganization of the federal government that Bush enacted was to set up a wire tapping program with the explicit goal of circumventing American law to spy on American citizens. From the time of the 9/11 attacks, Bush was steadfast in refusing and blocking any investigation into the attacts or, later, in the war in Iraq. It was only after extreme pressure from the American public that Bush caved on the 9/11 Commission, and then he refused to answer questions under oath in an open session. Furthermore, although there were no major terrorist attacks inside the United States' boarders, terrorist attacks in Madrid (subway), London (bus), and elsewhere killed many more innocent people. This is akin to giving Bill Clinton credit for having a positive response to being impeached for lying under oath to the grand jury regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky because there were no more Lewinsky-related scandals for the remainder of the Clinton presidency.

Slade, you're a hack! (and you're also bad at math, its been 7.25 years without an attack, not "more than eight years")

Posted by: Mik3D | January 5, 2009 12:42 PM
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