RealClearPolitics Cross Tabs Blog

« RNC Chair Update | Cross Tabs Blog Home Page | RNC Chair Race Reaches Finish Line »

The True Bush Legacy

By Andrea Tantaros

As I watched President Bush say his final farewell to the nation last night, my emotions were mixed. Though I admired the humility of his speech, I was left to wonder where that President Bush, and that tone, had been hiding for the last eight years. Puzzlingly, there was no real acknowledgement of our economic calamity, or at minimum a reassurance that the situation was top of mind, and that he and President-elect Obama were working together to ensure a seamless switch. Many of the points he did hit were noteworthy and noble, but he wouldn't have had to argue his case if his communications team had been articulating it all along. Disappointingly, I saw a man desperately trying to promote his Presidency in the eleventh hour.

While he still remains a somewhat popular figure in the Republican Party, Bush has angered many in the GOP, including me. That is not to say I don't respect my President. I do. But Bush and I have something in common: we both are always going to tell you exactly what we think - politically correct or not - no matter whom we piss off.

President Bush will largely be known for two things: the decision to invade Iraq and for presiding over the largest and most dramatic expansion of government this country has ever seen, which is a long term threat to liberty. While his compassionate conservatism produced positive results like an unprecedented level of funding to combat AIDS in Africa, it also bought into the notion that it is the federal government's job to provide material success to people - a terrible premise to operate from.

On foreign policy, he rightly supported Israel and refused to back down to radical Islamic Jihadists. His tough-talkin', cavalier character put the fundamentalists who seek to destroy us on notice, but his second inaugural was an ideological orgy of democracy promotion. As a conservative, I do not want the United States to be a crusader for democracy. That is Napoleonic.

Domestically, Bush created a massive fault line in the Republican Party with his proposal for easy immigration. He saw successes with Medicare Part D and CAFTA, but the back story to each was filled with late night votes and congressional cloakroom arm twisting. By the time Hurricane Katrina had rolled around it seemed as though he given up. He politicized his decision making by having Rove in all his policy meetings, and he put allegiance above ability when it came to selecting a staff whose modus operandi was insular, bullish, close-minded and off putting. Sadly, this has left the Republican Party badly bruised, divided and disoriented.

While he deserves enormous credit for keeping this country safe, his most overlooked achievements were his admirable positions on the judiciary and the social issues. He genuinely struggled to formulate an ethical position on stem cells. He picked outstanding justices, and that is his biggest, most untold legacy. He also picked a wife that could arguably be the most gracious and respected First Lady in United States' history. Moreover, as a person, he is a man of class and grace, a role model as a father and a man with a genuine conscience. It is hard not to admire him for that reason.

When it comes to his legacy, President Bush deserves more credit than he will get, especially when it comes to the mainstream media. In order for Obama to be a success, they must paint Bush as a failure. However, no president is perfect. Bush's biggest downfall was not that his intentions were malevolent, it was that he forgot how to communicate with the American people. The last week of one's presidency is a terrible time to remember.

Andrea Tantaros is a Republican political commentator and Fox contributor. Her commentary can be found at and