In America, we tend to naively consider politicians to be pure embodiments of either good or bad forces. We seldom view their acts as the products of fallible humans. One bothersome side effect is our personal selective editing of the legacies of every President depending on our political allegiances. For those Presidents we like, we tend to overlook the harm they did and the mistakes and expedient compromises they've made; for those we don't like, we tend to ignore any positive actions they've taken and focus only on the harmful.
For instance, though I like Clinton a great deal, and think that his effect on the nation was a net positive, it is sometimes hard to criticize some things he did without other Democrats considering me to be some sort of crypto-Republican. NAFTA, Welfare "Reform", his half-hearted integration of gender differences in the military, his creation and promotion of the DLC as a force within the Democratic party, his many personal ethical lapses, they are all part of Clinton's negative legacy and they are decidedly not the positive parts of his legacy.
And on the other side, while I despise Nixon, I have to admire and laud his passage of the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air and Water Acts, and his proposal for a guaranteed minimum income for every American. He may have been a terrible person who was dangerously unsuited to Presidency, but some good work got done on his watch and he played a role in making some positive changes for the nation.
Politicians are people, not demiurges of good or evil. In the interest of historical perspective and to counter the far-too-frequently leveled allegation that we on the left are just "bashing Bush" when we criticize his policies, it behooves us to reflect and dig down deep and find some examples of Bush actions and initiatives that we applaud and support, or at least don't despise.
Take the perspective of a historian 50 years in the future, if you must, to find some aspect of the Bush legacy that one can praise. Your praise doesn't have to be unequivocal, and the issue doesn't have to positive beyond any debate, just search for things that are arguably and/or mostly positive.
I'm not saying this will be easy - I am hard pressed to come up with any myself - that is why I am writing this. This is a project that clearly requires a group mind to do it justice.
Here's my contributions:
- Though the bill and it's implementation are severely flawed, the No Child Left Behind act established a bi-partisan precedent for addressing poor school performance (a traditionally state function) on a national level.
- By his utter and obvious favoritism toward Israel, Bush awakened many in the United States to the injustice of the apartheid system by which Israel rules the occupied territory, laying the foundation for popular American support for a just peace settlement.
- The speedy and flexible response to 9/11 in taking down the Taliban in Afghanistan was a model use of special forces to punish a rogue regime, despite the flaws in execution that allowed Al Qaeda to escape largely intact.
- The abuse of secrecy by the Bush Administration in the name of 'national security' to cover illegal detention, extra-judicial deportation, assassination, torture, illegal wiretapping and other crimes eventually awoke the American people to danger of not knowing what their government was doing, leading to the passage in the subsequent Administration of sweeping government secrecy reforms.
Now, you give it a try. What can you find to praise about the Bush Administration? Hopefully, at least a few can be less conjectural and backhanded than my poor few examples. Help create a list that liberals can use to prove that we are open to all of Bush's legacy, not just the overwhelmingly evil super-majority.