What Bush Got: Right or What Bush Got? Right

Since blogging is a way to express opinions and have an exchange of ideas, I thought I would mention the cover story for Newsweek 18/25 August 17, 2008 What Bush Got Right by Fareed Zakaria.  Through the years of the Bush administration, I have read a couple of opinion pieces by Zakaria which I thought were insightful in their criticisms of the administration’s foreign policy.  Though President Bush continues to ride very low in American opinion polls, Zakaria offers some thoughts about how his administration has actually changed and in some cases reversed its foreign policy as well as how it decides to handle foreign nations.  This is no panegyric, and it will not please the one-third of Americans who still like President Bush, but it should give some hope to those who have felt discouraged by the administration’s policies’ failures. 

 Zakaria thinks to some extent the low opinion polls on the President reflect the fact that Americans continue to react to the administration based on its past/early performance and mistakes rather than on its current efforts and initiatives.   Zakaria thinks the Bush administration has moved in a good direction and that is now bearing some fruit in Iraq, in China and in other places in the world.   Zakaria makes the point that when Bush came into office there was such a negative feeling toward the Clinton administration that Bush simply tried to reverse Clinton initiatives without making any effort to understand why these policies were being followed.   Ideologically driven leaders often are blinded to the realities around them as they see and interpret the world through their ideological lenses and not allowing other points of view to enter into their deliberations.  (This is something that numerous “former administration officials” have pointed out in a spate of books they have been publishing since leaving office).  Zakaria warns the presidential candidates this year not to make the same mistake.  Change may be needed, but do not blind yourself to the good currently being done, nor to the good changes the current administration has made over the last several years.  Zakaria who has been a Bush critic takes the time to mention some of the things that President Bush has done right.   He explains at the end of the article why, and in so doing offers sage advice to the next man (sorry Hilary) who will be president of the United States:

“So why offer this corrective? Because we cannot go back to 2001. The next president will inherit the world as it is in 2009. He will have to examine the Bush administration’s policies as they stand in January 2009-not as they were in 2001 or 2002 or 2003-and decide how to accept, modify and alter them. There was a U.S. president who came into office convinced that everything his predecessor had done was feckless, stupid, ill-informed and venal. He rejected and tried to reverse everything that he could, almost as an article of faith. Before he had even examined the policies carefully, he knew that they had to be changed. The base of his party was delighted by his clarity and fighting spirit.

That president, of course, was George W. Bush. His decision to blindly repudiate anything associated with Bill Clinton is what got us into this mess in the first place. Let’s hope that the next president, no matter how much he despises Bush, will take a careful look at his administration’s policies, America’s interests, and the world beyond and do the right thing for the country and its future.

Bottom line for the next president: if you don’t like the way President Bush handled foreign policy, don’t repeat his mistake and simply repudiate your predecessor; rather, learn from how he did things and what he did and if possible make better choices.    Or, ideology is only a short step away from idiotology.  If you stand in the shadow cast by your own ideology, remember you are in the dark.  Finally, do not demonize your predecessor, or you will become like him in how you make your mistakes.

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