With Barack Obama now officially the President of the United States, all eyes are free to focus on the history that was made, the history, of course, of the completed presidency of George W. Bush. Though many popular media sources, including Rolling Stone, contemplate whether Bush will be considered the worst president in U.S. history, many others are trying to remind us just how much we have to be thankful for.
We won’t know for many years how history will signify Bush’s presidency. The 43rd president of the United States had a monumental run. One can only hope that no other president will have to serve through the disasters like the ones Bush has fought through September 11, a gruesome battle with terrorism, two recessions, two wars, an anthrax attack and a treacherous hurricane, just to name a few. Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary, recently spoke to Fox News about the departing president, noting that, ‘very few presidents have had the challenges he’s had. He leaves with a lot of confidence, knowing, particularly on Iraq, he has made major decisions.”
The important decisions that former President Bush has made have given us a world without Saddam Hussein and a severely dismantled Al-Qaeda. The terrorist attacks on September 11 were an act of war, and doing nothing about these horrible events would have been unacceptable and unsafe. Granted, some forthcoming information has suggested that many other more productive maneuvers could have been made, but that material was not available when America needed it the most. Fleischer said, ‘There are a lot of people who don’t like what’s happened. And they want George Bush to say that he is a mistake, his presidency is a mistake. And he shouldn’t do that. Of course, he shouldn’t do that.”
Bush has done something Bill Clinton never dared to do he put forth a substantial effort to stop Bin Laden and his affiliates. When the USS Cole was attacked on Oct. 12, 2000 by Bin Laden and Al-Queda forces, something should have been done by the Clinton administration. No one can claim that Bush is completely unaccountable for the current situation, but we must remember that he is not alone in fabricating this imminent mess.
The top priority in many Americans’ minds now is the economic situation. The economy is in the forefront of the news, but Bush is not solely to blame. Many historians and analysts are looking at the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act as a major, direct cause of the current financial crisis. This act was carefully crafted after the Great Depression to prevent such things from happening again. This act prevented banks and financial institutions from owning each other. The repeal meant that retail banks seeking higher profits could now plunge into high-risk ventures through ownership of investment banks and vice versa, which led to disastrous consequences in 1929. This was signed by Bill Clinton and supported by democratic leaders, among them the strongest believer of Bush deregulation, Nancy Pelosi. In fact, Bush increased regulation on U.S. companies, enacting in 2002 what he called,’the most far-reaching reform of American business practices since the time of Franklin D Roosevelt,” the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. From an outside look, even the BBC agrees that we, as a media-driven population, are placing too much blame on Bush. Greg Wood, North American business correspondent for the BBC, said, ‘The image of Mr. Bush as the arch deregulator and the Democrats as the champions of stricter rules for business does not quite tally with the evidence.”
If you look completely at the history of the mortgage crisis, you will see that the housing market began to get into trouble long before Bush took office. Under the Clinton administration the price of houses versus mortgage and inflation rates started to separate for the first time in decades. House prices started a steady climb upwards, and mortgage legislation forced banks to make bad loans to undeserving clients. This all started with the Community Reinvestment Act, signed into law in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. After its inception, it was doing its job until the 1992, 1994 and 1995 reforms signed by Bill Clinton. The CRA forced banks to make loans to low-income, high-risk customers by forcing them to discriminate against low-income areas, no matter how economically unsound the decision. On top of the threats of denial for expansion, Federal Reserve policies lowered interest rates and allowed banks to issue ‘teaser rates” (low early rates that shoot up after a period of time) on mortgages and all lines of credit. When financially unprepared and unstable customers saw these incredibly low rates, they jumped on them, and now those teaser rates have expired and debt is piling up.
The Wall Street Journal poll shows that Bush is thought of as the 18th best president ever. As a comparison, Clinton is number 22 (both rankings are according to Wall Street Journal Opinions archives). So don’t be so quick to judge. Important decisions are made in every presidency, and it is impossible that all of them are perfect. Bush always put the country and the freedom and safety of its citizens first. No president can be faulted for that.
Rogers is a member of
the class of 2012.