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His presidency was far more successful than not. And there's an aspect of his
decision-making that merits special recognition: his courage. Time and time
again, Bush did what other presidents, even Ronald Reagan, would not have
done and for which he was vilified and abused. That—defiantly doing the right
thing—is what distinguished his presidency.

Bush had ten great achievements (and maybe more) in
his eight years in the White House, starting with his
decision in 2001 to jettison the Kyoto global warming
so loved by Al Gore, the environmental lobby, elite
opinion, and Europeans. The treaty was a disaster, with India
and China exempted and economic decline the certain result.
Everyone knew it. But only Bush said so and acted accord-

He stood athwart mounting global warming hysteria and
yelled, "Stop!" He slowed the movement toward a policy
blunder of worldwide impact, providing time for facts to catch
up with the dubious claims of alarmists. Thanks in part to
Bush, the supposed consensus of scientists on global warming has now collapsed. The
skeptics, who point to global cooling over the past decade, are now heard loud and
clear. And a rational approach to the theory of manmade global warming is possible.

Second, enhanced interrogation of terrorists. Along with use of secret prisons and
wireless eavesdropping, this saved American lives. How many thousands of lives? We'll
never know. But, as Charles Krauthammer said recently, "Those are precisely the
elements which kept us safe and which have prevented a second attack."

Crucial intelligence was obtained from captured al Qaeda leaders, including 9/11
mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, with the help of waterboarding. Whether this
tactic—it creates a drowning sensation—is torture is a matter of debate. John McCain
and many Democrats say it is. Bush and Vice President Cheney insist it isn't. In any
case, it was necessary. Lincoln once made a similar point in defending his suspension of
habeas corpus in direct defiance of Chief Justice Roger Taney. "Are all the laws but one
to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?"
Lincoln asked. Bush understood the answer in wartime had to be no.

Bush's third achievement was the rebuilding of presidential authority, badly
degraded in the era of Vietnam, Watergate, and Bill Clinton. He didn't hesitate to
conduct wireless surveillance of terrorists without getting a federal judge's okay. He
decided on his own how to treat terrorists and where they should be imprisoned. Those
were legitimate decisions for which the president, as commander in chief, should feel no
need to apologize.

Defending, all the way to the Supreme Court, Cheney's refusal to disclose to Congress
the names of people he'd consulted on energy policy was also enormously important.
Democratic congressman Henry Waxman demanded the names, but the Court upheld
Cheney, 7-2. Last week, Cheney defended his refusal, waspishly noting that Waxman
"doesn't call me up and tell me who he's meeting with."

    Achievement number four was Bush's
    unswerving support for Israel. Reagan was
    once deemed Israel's best friend in the White
    House. Now Bush can claim the title. He ostracized
    Yasser Arafat as an impediment to peace in the
    Middle East. This infuriated the anti-Israel forces
    in Europe, the Third World, and the United
    Nations, and was criticized by champions of the
    "peace process" here at home. Bush was right.
He was clever in his support. Bush announced that Ariel Sharon should withdraw the
tanks he'd sent into the West Bank in 2002, then exerted zero pressure on Sharon to do
so. And he backed the wall along Israel's eastern border without endorsing it as an
official boundary, while knowing full well that it might eventually become exactly that. He
was a loyal friend.

His fifth success was No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the education reform bill
cosponsored by America's most prominent liberal Democratic senator Edward Kennedy.
The teachers' unions, school boards, the education establishment, conservatives
adamant about local control of schools--they all loathed the measure and still do. It
requires two things they ardently oppose, mandatory testing and accountability.
Kennedy later turned against NCLB, saying Bush is shortchanging the program. In truth,
federal education spending is at record levels. Another complaint is that it forces
teachers to "teach to the test." The tests are on math and reading. They are tests worth
teaching to.

Sixth, Bush declared in his second inaugural address in 2005 that American
foreign policy (at least his) would henceforth focus on promoting democracy
around the world
. This put him squarely in the Reagan camp, but he was lambasted as
unrealistic, impractical, and a tool of wily neoconservatives. The new policy gave Bush
credibility in pressing for democracy in the former Soviet republics and Middle East and
in zinging various dictators and kleptocrats. It will do the same for President Obama, if
he's wise enough to hang onto it.

The seventh achievement is the Medicare prescription drug benefit, enacted in
2003. It's not only wildly popular; it has cost less than expected by triggering competition
among drug companies. Conservatives have deep reservations about the program. But
they shouldn't have been surprised. Bush advocated the drug benefit in the 2000
campaign. And if he hadn't acted, Democrats would have, with a much less attractive

Then there were John Roberts and Sam Alito. In
putting them on the Supreme Court and naming
Roberts chief justice, Bush achieved what had eluded
Richard Nixon, Reagan, and his own father. Roberts
and Alito made the Court indisputably more conserv-
ative. And the good news is Roberts, 53, and Alito,
58, should be justices for decades to come.

Bush's ninth achievement has been widely ignored. He strengthened relations
with east Asian democracies (Japan, South Korea, Australia) without causing a
rift with China
. On top of that, he forged strong ties with India. An important factor was
their common enemy, Islamic jihadists. After 9/11, Bush made the most of this, and
Indian leaders were receptive. His state dinner for Indian prime minister Manmohan
Singh in 2006 was a lovefest.

    Finally, a no-brainer: the surge.
    Bush prompted nearly unanimous
    disapproval in January 2007 when he
    announced he was sending more
    troops to Iraq and adopting a new
    counterinsurgency strategy. His
    opponents initially included the State
    Department, the Pentagon, most of
    Congress, the media, the foreign
    policy establishment, indeed the
whole world. This makes his decision a profile in courage. Best of all, the surge worked.
Iraq is now a fragile but functioning democracy.

How does Bush rank as a president?

We won't know until he's judged from the perspective of two or three decades. Hindsight
forced a sharp upgrading of the presidencies of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.
Given his achievements, it may have the same effect for Bush.
This article is reprinted with
permission of
The Weekly
, where it first
appeared on
January 19, 2009.
For more information visit


Fred Barnes is
executive editor of
Weekly Standard
. From
1985 to 1995, he
served as senior
editor and White
House correspondent
for the
New Republic.
He covered the
Supreme Court and the
White House for the
Washington Star before
moving on to the
Baltimore Sun in 1979.
He served as the
national political
correspondent for the
Sun and wrote the
"Presswatch" media
column for the
American Spectator.

He is host, along with
Mort Kondracke, of the
Beltway Boys on the
Fox News Channel. Mr.
Barnes appears
regularly on Fox's
Special Report with Brit
. From 1988 to
1998 he was a regular
panelist on the
McLaughlin Group. He
has also appeared on
Nightline, Meet the
, Face the Nation,
and the
NewsHour with
Jim Lehrer

Mr. Barnes graduated
from the University of
Virginia and was a
Neiman Fellow at
Harvard University.
...Ten Things the President Got Right

The postmortems on the presidency of George W. Bush are
all wrong. The liberal line is that Bush dangerously
weakened America's position in the world and rushed to the
aid of the rich and powerful as income inequality worsened.
That is twaddle.

Conservatives—okay, not all of them—have only been a
little bit kinder. They give Bush credit for the surge that
saved Iraq, but not for much else.

He deserves better.