The economy first: After the bursting of the dot-com bubble, followed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we've had more than five years of steady growth, low unemployment and a stock market recovery. Did this just happen? No. Bush pushed through the tax cuts of 2001 and especially 2003 by arguing that they would produce growth. His opponents predicted dire consequences. But the president was overwhelmingly right. Even the budget deficit, the most universally criticized consequence of the tax cuts, is coming down and is lower than it was when the 2003 supply-side tax cuts were passed.Kristol does spend some significant time talking about Iraq, but argues that the outlook is not nearly as bleak as the interim status report says or what the September report by Gen. Patreaus will report: But
The year 2003 also featured a close congressional vote on Bush's other major first-term initiative, the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Liberals denounced it as doing nothing for the elderly; conservatives worried that it would bust the budget. Experts of all stripes foresaw great challenges in its implementation. In fact, it has all gone surprisingly smoothly, providing broad and welcome coverage for seniors and coming in under projected costs.
So on the two biggest pieces of domestic legislation the president has gotten passed, he has been vindicated. And with respect to the two second-term proposals that failed -- private Social Security accounts and immigration -- I suspect that something similar to what Bush proposed will end up as law over the next several years.
wait, wait, wait: What about Iraq? It's Iraq, stupid -- you (and 65 percent of your fellow Americans) say -- that makes Bush an unsuccessful president.The truth is somewhat muddled. Of course we get the press reports of various car bombings and death. But the reports we see from one source are not backed up by reports from the ground, such as those of Michael Yon. So what is the truth?
But wait, wait, wait: What about Iraq? It's Iraq, stupid -- you (and 65 percent of your fellow Americans) say -- that makes Bush an unsuccessful president.
Not necessarily. First of all, we would have to compare the situation in Iraq now, with all its difficulties and all the administration's mistakes, with what it would be if we hadn't gone in. Saddam Hussein would be alive and in power and, I dare say, victorious, with the United States (and the United Nations) by now having backed off sanctions and the no-fly zone. He might well have restarted his nuclear program, and his connections with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would be intact or revived and even strengthened.
Still, that's speculative, and the losses and costs of the war are real. Bush is a war president, and war presidents are judged by whether they win or lose their war. So to be a successful president, Bush has to win in Iraq.
Which I now think we can. Indeed, I think we will. In late 2006, I didn't think we would win, as Bush stuck with the failed Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey strategy of "standing down" as the Iraqis were able to "stand up," based on the mistaken theory that if we had a "small footprint" in Iraq, we'd be more successful. With the new counterinsurgency strategy announced on Jan. 10, backed up by the troop "surge," I think the odds are finally better than 50-50 that we will prevail. We are routing al-Qaeda in Iraq, we are beginning to curb the Iranian-backed sectarian Shiite militias and we are increasingly able to protect more of the Iraqi population.
The truth is that the United States will be victorious in Iraq, if for not other reason than at some point the average Iraqi will get tired of the violence and start shunning those who advocate killing "the others." To be successful an insurgency needs the support of a small cadre of people and at least the tacit approval of the majority of the population and at some point the killing and feat will cause the majority of the population to reconsider its position. When that happens, and I believe it will happen within the next year, the situation will get a lot better, a lot faster.
The other aspect is the Iraqi govenrment. Nouri al-Maliki is looking less and less viable to the Iraqis and may be on the way out. The reason is that a Democratic president will abandon Iraq to the wolves unless there is real and substantial progress on political changes. Either al-Maliki will have his "come to Muhammed" moment and straighten up or he will be tossed on is ear. Most of the rank and file Iraqis know that the United States is providing a great deal of security while the Iraqis get their camels in a row. But they also know that American patience is finite, even with a Republican administration. If they don't fix things and soon, there will be no incentive to provide the Iraqis with the security they need. A Democratic president will have to withdraw the troops, regardless of teh consequences to Iraq and that is not something the Iraqis can afford.
I have long thought that, despite the press' disdain for Bush and of course the left's hatred of him, when all is said and done, George W. Bush will be considered a great president and nothing seems to be getting in teh way of that assessment. Time has shown his economic policies to be a success. His domestic health care signature program, while expensive, is pretty popular. No Child Left Behind has gotten America talking, really talking about education. Finally, when it comes to the Bush Doctrine--history will show that when terrorism hit the big time on the international front, only one man had the foresight to call it what it was--a threat, and the backbone to fight it, no matter what the cost to him politically.