Panel Discusses Judging the Bush Administration

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BUSH: That's right, I'm leaving but not until six months and I'm sprinting to the finish. So we can get a lot done together.


HUME: Well, that is President Bush, of course, sitting there talking with the new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about what they can get done. Obviously the president is hoping that a number of things can get done. You heard him earlier on judges, hoping that he can get some of that done.

And obviously he has got the situation unfolding in Iraq, Afghanistan, and with the Iranians that are all part of what will become his legacy. It is not too early to start talking about it. Where does it stand?

Juan, what do you think?

WILLIAMS: I don't think there's any question he will be judged on the basis of the war in Iraq. And what stands out to me is John McCain. How is John McCain handling this president? And for the most part it looks to me like John McCain is keeping him at a distance. So that is the Republican assessment of him. And of course.

HUME: Yes, but that's a short-term assessment. What I'm trying to get from you is your long-term assessment.

WILLIAMS: Well, it's hard to say long term, because -- and I think -- I see this reflected in the press. You don't know how things have turned out. If you look at it at the moment, though, the American people give him a very low rating, and my sense is that people will remember George W. Bush if we stop the ticker right now, as someone who was true of heart, that he truly believed what he was doing, that he wasn't a deceiver or a liar, but that at times he acted in ways that were inept and he was overly dependent on people that he considered himself loyal to, but at times turned out he was blind to their failures.

BARNES: I don't think it's going to be anything like that, Juan. And we are not talking about what polls say now or what John McCain says. It's what we think -- you know, 20 years from now, historians will say when they look back, and the way they did, what, 20, 30 years after Harry Truman left the White House, extraordinarily unpopular in 1953. And now we look back and see some of the great things he did.

Here's what I -- look, and we have to remember this, President Bush lacks influence now, but he has got a lot of power. He is commander-in- chief. He can veto things. And here is what he is going to be are remembered for, I think, two very important things.

One is Iraq, which is now getting close to being a stable, democratic, pro-American country in the middle of the Middle East. This is one of the most important accomplishments in recent decades, for sure, and easily one of the most important since the Cold War ended.

HUME: Assuming it doesn't fall apart.


HUME: Assuming it doesn't fall apart.

BARNES: Assuming it doesn't fall apart. But because of the president's decision on the surge and the strategy there to be used, this is why there has been so much success now in Iraq. It's not over there, but we know how it's headed.

And the second thing is, everything he did to fight the war on terror, the infrastructure he created, the alliances with countries that wanted to join in this, like India, that weren't allies of America before, getting the FBI, you know, to change its mission overnight to fighting terrorism, and thing after thing after thing where he created this infrastructure, still being built and still sort of unwieldy, but it's there and it has been successful in fighting terrorism.

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't think you have to go 20 years in the future to see how he will be judged. It's going to be on the war on terror. Every president has one big thing. That was his. It was on his watch, and Democrats are saying we're losing the war on terror, the terrorists are stronger.

What planet are three living on? We have not had an attack in six- and-a-half years, which no one expected. There has not been a major attack in Europe since Madrid and London. In the Philippines and Indonesia where al Qaeda was strong, it is marginalized. In Iraq, it is suffering a historic humiliating defeat.

It was not a war against al Qaeda that we had sought. It was not our intention. But it ended up a war which al Qaeda had declared on us in Iraq. It's being defeated. It's near strategic defeat in Saudi Arabia as well.

You know, Democrats are saying it was a recruiting tool. Yes, it was, in '06 and '07, a recruiting tool for jihadists. And they went into Iraq and they died in Iraq, some of them taking innocents with them, but the vast majority dying for nothing in a losing cause in what is now becoming a rout.

All of this is apparent today. It is not history that we have to look back on, and this is because, as Fred has indicated, he created infrastructure here at home, Homeland Security, the reorganization of intelligence, the use of our assets abroad, working with allies, and because he used the terrible sword of the United States.

It wasn't a swift sword. It has been six years and a lot of suffering. But it has been incredibly effective. And to deny it I think is to be living on the Moon.

HUME: But it's -- these judgments, I think, are probably not going to help John McCain.

KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely not. Because the media have not accepted it and they will not report enormous amount of news which is important in understanding this, which Americans don't hear about.

WILLIAMS: Don't blame the media on this. I think there are a lot of smart Americans. And as I point out at the start of this discussion, a lot of Republicans who think there has been some problems with this administration.

In conclusion...

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