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.
Quite frankly, the Bush 43 administration has been one unmitigated disaster after another. Without being partisan about it, which I certainly could be, let's just use your list as a starting point.
The Constitution: This has been alternately besieged or ignored for the entire term. Starting with obvious cases like wiretapping and habeus corpus, to freedom of speech (the Denver case where the guy told Cheney his policy in Iraq was reprehensible and was charged with assault) to freedom of assembly (spying on groups opposed to the war) and that's just the first amendment. Do I need to talk about the Vice-President not being part of the executive branch or "the unitary executive?"
Treaties: I'll only bring up one here, The Geneva Conventions. Under these, The President and the entire group that discussed "intensive interrogation techniques" at the White House by their own statements are guilty of war crimes. We hanged people for waterboarding after WWII. That's not partisan, they did it, and have stated they did it. The conventions call it a war crime, and this country has in the past hanged people for it (thank you for that quote Senator McCain).
Iraq: Iraq may be better now than it was in 2004, but was it better than it was in 2002 before we invaded? From the point of view of the average Iraqi, that's going to be a tough call, the Sunnis are out of power, the Shi'ites have much more, the Kurds can tell Baghdad to go screw, the Turks want to invade to stop the creation of a greater Kurdstan, Iranian power in the region is up dramatically, electricity might be back to pre-war levels, but millions have been displaced from their former homes and an unknown number, but between 100,000 and one million iraqis (depending on who you want to source) are dead that would not have been. What was not a safe haven for al-Qaeda at all now is. Things were so bad in Iraq that whether it is better now or then is a tough call, but overall I'm going with worse based just on the death toll. One certain thing, we wouldn't have over 4,000 US soldiers dead and over 50,000 injured. Cheney was right in 1993 when he said not going in after Gulf I was the right call. It was still the right call ten years later.
Afghanistan: Failed. Heroin is up, tribal leaders are up, the Taliban is still running (and has now basically taken over chunks of Pakistan). It was a failed country before the invasion, it is still a failed country now. Everything Bush did here has amounted to a hill of beans. A small one.
Al-Qaeda: The intelligence community says they are at or above their height of 2001. Failure, end of story.
DHS: I'm sorry, did you, like everyone else, forget the anthrax attacks after 9/11? Or the continued problems with "white powder" in mailboxes? There wasn't a foreign terrorist attack between the two trade center attacks in 1993 and 2001 either. I have news for you, doing things like burning down black churches in the South and blowing up abortion clinics, the Olympics and Oklahoma City is terrorism as well, but that was all done by people from here. How about the skinheads who were picked up in Tennessee last year, the guy in Boston on Wednesday, Virginia Tech, or any number of other screw ups, some stopped, some not, but NOT ONE by DHS. DHS could, to borrow a phrase, "fuck up a baked potato."
The markets: Wow, no. The way they got out of the dot bomb and internet bubble was the deregulation of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, and elimination of pretty much any and all regulation in the industry which is how we landed where we are now. The dot bomb without the housing and credit bubbles mitigating it would have been far less painful than those bubbles now also bursting. The first would have been something like the 1991 or 1983 recessions, this is going to be more like 1930 something.
The failures, Social Security and Immigration: I'm not sure what to say about the immigration question. It would have been a step somewhere, so maybe that would have been a good thing, and I think long-term it might have been a good idea, but we'll never know now. Just four years after the Social Security failure though, I can say without qualification, we're better off without it. Right, pump all of that retirement money into the unregulated markets. If you want to see the system dry up, watch trillions of dollars in assets go up the chimney when the markets do what they have in the last six months, then see what the people dependent on that money do when it stops. Passing this would have pushed the "crisis" in the system from 10-30 years in the future, to right now, and it would be hitting on top of everything else.
Other State Sponsors: This list is so convoluted and contrived I'm not sure what it's worth, but sure. Lybia is off, North Korea worked a deal to get off, all that's left is Cuba (really? Who do they sponsor these days?) Syria (Hezbollah), Iran (they're Iran), and Sudan (not so much a sponsor as a safe haven, Sudan is basically a failed country). No China for supporting Sudan, or US for supporting the MEC, even though they're both considered terrorist organizations. I'll call this one a wash because it's screwed up enough to be a soup sandwich.
ACTUAL GOOD THING! I'll give him one point that I call an unqualified good thing. This. The creation of hundreds of thousands of miles of protected area is the last thing I expected, but is without question, a good thing.
And that's not getting partisan. Parts of this I think we can disagree on (the economics of the market question, but then the hardest thing to do is find two economists who agree with each other) but going after W and his administration on any of this isn't partisan at all.
If you want partisan, I can compare Gitmo to the gulag and by extension Bush to Stalin, but I don't think we need to go there to understand that the last eight years have been a disaster.