What role the Bush Administration's downgrading of terrorism as a foreign-policy priority played in the success of the 9/11 attacks cannot be known, but there is no doubting its responsibility for the launching and mismanagement of the unprovoked war in Iraq, with all its attendant suffering; for allowing the justified war in Afghanistan to slide to the edge of defeat; and for the vertiginous worldwide decline of America's influence, prestige, power, and moral standing.
I wonder if there is anyone assessing the Bush Presidency at this moment who is able to do so objectively, without Partisan bias... Who can actually give him credit for the things he did accomplish while acknowledging his failures honestly.
I've always been concerned about his attitudes about constitutional rights and international treaties. Cheney is wrong - history will not look kindly upon what they've done there. Obama stuck a fork directly into that mess during his inaugural speech, so perhaps we're off to progress, but I'm eagerly awaiting actual policies. Some of those problems are easier to talk about than to fix.
The war in Iraq was a mixed bag. We did not get into it in the right way. It blew up in our faces. Finally Bush, in the wake of a failed Congressional election, did the right thing and fired Rumsfeld. We changed course in Iraq, and the situation is better now. This wasn't entirely the result of good fortune.
A number of countries that we considered state supporters of terrorism at the turn of the century are now off the list, although I'm still a little skeptical about North Korea.
I'd argue that they significantly softenned the blow of the stock market crash - of 2002. Few people understand that. When things don't go wrong no one understands what you achieved. They should have popped the housing bubble earlier, but the result would have been depressing regardless of when they did it. The real bubble was blown in the late 1990s. The greater catastrophy was likely averted, no matter how bad things are about to get.
For all the monday night quarterbacking about DHS and its inefficiencies, the US has not been subjected to another domestic terrorist attack.
AlQueda is singificantly weakened. They simply do not have the operational capabilities that they had 8 years ago.
Bush (and his party) failed on two key domestic policy issues: social security and immigration. They were largely unable to achieve the later because of the incongruence between reality and the views of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk. Bush is right. He should have just done it. Its not like he would be any less unpopular for having gone through with it.