Today is the George W. Bush's last day as President of the United States.
Bush departs office with 30% approval ratings amidst a potentially severe economic recession and with America's worldwide reputation apparently in tatters.
I will miss him.
I'll miss him because he has been and is one of those very rare folks in politics who says what he means in plain, unremitting language. He has defied Democrats and Republicans alike in sticking to his principles. He campaigned as a compassionate conservative and indeed that is what he may have been. The much criticized bailout of the Big Three angered more Republicans (including this one) by far than he did the Left.
He had, by any measure, an extremely difficult Presidency. Winning Florida narrowly but legitimately nevertheless made him a bastard President for a goodly part of the Left which never missed an opportunity to nettle, attack and maim.
The attacks of September 11 were the greatest foreign policy threat in a generation and this President rose to it admirably.
Assembling the Coalition and changing regimes in Iraq was successful but managed ultimately with the wrong Defense Secretary.
Hurricane Katrina was a farce and if Bush was due any blame then the risible mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana were due ten times that. That and the annus horribilis in Iraq in 2006 crippled the Administration.
Finally the economic crisis that began in 2007 and erupted in the fall of 2008 threatens to be a multigenerational event whose blame is well spread it did happen on this President's watch.
So why will I miss him? As another more able writer screed, that knucklehead Michael Moore notwithstanding, we were fortunate to have this President in office rather than either his predecessor or successor. Nine months into his term Bush faced a crisis that Clinton never did in eight years. We decisively and quickly excised an extraordinarily poisonous and reactive regime.
And in Iraq where we have written much and the outcome remains in doubt but perhaps optimistic Bush made his stand in 2006 on the surge despite the unremitting enmity of the Left and the Democratic party and desertion by many on the right. To depart then - where the lesson of Cambodia is instructive - would have ensured chaos and genocide on a massive scale. The surge worked and Iraq has a better than average chance to be the source of change in the Middle East. Surely it came with cost. Every last penny of capital was spent here. Iran, North Korea, a bitter Russia and Chavez inspired anti Americanism went largely unanswered.
But if Iraq works, it will have been Bush's finest hour. And some day, Bush may yet see the rehabilitation of Truman.
Thank you for your service. Good luck and God bless you.