George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, will probably go down as one of the most deeply religious presidents in our nation's history. He'll also go down as maybe one of the most controversial. So many first time events took place during his presidency. Present onlookers find it easy to shoulder all the blame on him. I believe, especially after reading the book and seeing his points of view, that history will exonerate President Bush from the blame the media and many on the far left heaped upon him.
First . . . the obvious. The economy was bad when he became president. It didn't seem that way. Numbers didn't necessarily show it. But economists were watching the limited returns and the corruption unfold in the housing markets. Seventeen times President Bush mentioned something about the housing market and the crisis it was going to cause and seventeen times it went unheard. Chris Dodd, a Democratic Senator from Connecticut, is on record as telling the President that the housing market was fine and needed no attention. Senator Dodd was also receiving a good hunk of change from investments with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Just as the Roaring 20's preceeded the Great Depression, the economic upswing of the last years of President George H. W. Bush's presidency and the Clinton presidency masked the corruption and horror awaiting. In the book, Bush laments the government having to bail out the companies, but ultimately giving into the financial advisors which predicted a total economic meltdown if the companies went belly up. In the end, Bush's presidency gave the country the lowest defecit to GDP ratio in 50 years: a 2.0. The average for 50 years was 3.0. Bush's ratio was far and away better than Reagan, Bush, or Clinton. Unemployment at one point was under 5% and averaged less than 6.3% for the 8 years of his presidency. All of this was managed with two recessions, bail outs, two wars, two major hurricanes, and the deadliest and costliest disaster ever to hit America: 9/11.
Second, Bush talks a lot about the wars. Many people fell out with him over the way he handled the wars and more importantly the troops. There were decisions he made that I wasn't thrilled about. Ironically, in the book President Bush is very candid about mistakes that were made and the reasons they were made to begin with. Yet the underlying reasons for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq was in response to 9/11. On that day, Americans cheered when the President said we would hunt down those responsible and make them pay. Not even a year later, the country starting turning on the President due to the price of war . . . that great price that is far greater than monetary value . . . the price of life and blood. President Bush personally wrote a letter to the family of every soldier who was killed in the line of duty. Reading the book made it clear how much these deaths ripped at his heart. Yet he remained committed to destroying those who hurt America and making sure they were debilitated from doing so again. President Bush admits to possibily overreacting with some military decisions, but he said he would rather be known as the president that overreacted to threats and inteligence than the president who didn't react enough and allowed another attack on the mainland. At one point, President Bush says he was receiving over 400 threats a month. Some were unfounded. Many more were real. He said that a similar plot to 9/11 was planned for the Liberty Tower of LA but was thwarted without fanfare.
President Bush talks a great deal about his family, faith, and certainly his idea of freedom. During his time in office, four Middle Eastern nations became democracies and made history by having women in leadership. This is something unheard of in the Middle Eastern countries mostly dominated by Islam. America played a key role in each instance. The peace that exists unofficially between Israel and Palestine was successfully brokered by President Bush but ultimately went unsigned due to a change in power in Israel. American-Chinese relations found new common grounds with President Bush sharing his faith with the president of Communist China.
The book was a great book and I've been looking forward to reading it. As a pastor, I in no way have the pressure on me that President Bush did, but I can relate to at least some of the pressure that exists when you have to make decisions that many times have never been made before. The best you can do is be true to your faith, your understanding of the Word, the leading of the Spirit, and what you know and believe is right. You want always make the right call, but I have found that a wrong call made with passion and integrity can still often times be a respected call. While I don't agree with everything President Bush did, he didn't either in hindsight. But one thing can be said without question. President Bush did what he thought was best to strengthen, protect, and lead our country to the best of his ability. At the end of the day, that's all you can ask.
If you're up for a good, long read, pick this book up. It's great. I'll close my review with his own words about his own presidency.
"Instead of covering every issue, I've tried to give the reader a sense of the most consequential
decisions that reached my desk. As I hope I've made clear, I believe I got some of those
decisions right, and I got some wrong. But on every one, I did what I believed was in the best
interests of our country.
Decades from now, i hope people will view me as a president who reorganized the central
challenge of our time and kept my vow to keep the country safe; who pursued my convictions
without wavering but changed course when necessary; who trusted individuals to make choices
in their lives; and who used America's influence to advance freedom. And I hope they will conclude
that I upheld the honor and dignity of the office I was so privileged to hold."
This pastor thinks you did just that President Bush. Well done good and faithful servant.