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Bush's Legacy: not pretty

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Lost in this week’s market craziness (and with good reason) is the minor issue of President Bush’s legacy.

Two term president’s usually begin thinking about their place in history during the final months of their administration.  After all, there’s not much left for a lame duck but to run out the clock and ponder their legacy.

In the case of President Bush, this can’t be a pleasant experience.   I’ll probably delve more deeply into Bush’s legacy after the election, but in my book I ranked him 34 out of the 42 presidents.  “It’s too soon to take a serious cut at President Bush’s place in history,” starts the chapter, “but it’s not too soon to call the invasion of Iraq one of the worst decisions in presidential history.”

My basic contention was that the invasion of Iraq completely negated what would otherwise had been a decent record.  Among his successes:  the immediate handling of Afghanistan and the aftermath of 9-11, the strengthening of domestic security, and creating a strong economy.   It’s easy to forget that President Bush inherited a recession and tech bubble implosion, which was then compounded by the devastation of the 9-11 attacks, and yet still managed to avoid a deeper recession.  The economy grew at a solid pace from 2003-2007, and even the housing bubble seemed to be just a blip on the radar.

And now all that’s changed.  Turned out the economy was running on borrowed time and bad loans, and millions of Americans were living way beyond their means.  While President Bush isn’t completely to blame — truth be told the President holds little sway over the economy — the bottom line is that the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression occured on his watch.  And because of that, it accrues to his legacy.

So now he can put the worst presidential blunder and arguably the worst financial calamity in history on his resume.  He’s in a tight competition with Ulysses S Grant for the worst two-term president in history. That’s a contest you don’t want to win.