“I can summarise Bushâ€™s legacy in two words: Barack Obama.”
– James Lindsay, a politics professor at Texas university in a Financial Times article.
Observers have traced much of Mr Bushâ€™s alleged incompetence to his dislike of what he calls â€œprocess decisionsâ€ â€“ conclusions reached through the normal Washington inter-agency process. Following his fatherâ€™s defeat by Bill Clinton in 1992, the future president was quoted as having dismissed George Bush seniorâ€™s tendency to synthesise widely sought advice. In contrast, the younger Bush saw himself as â€œThe Deciderâ€ â€“ someone who acted on principle and never lost sleep over the consequences.
Many admired his gut instincts. But as his presidency wore on, they dwindled in number. Some suspected, often correctly, that Mr Bushâ€™s impulses were supplied by Dick Cheney, his vice-president, whose skill at circumventing the usual channels of decision-making was second to none. â€œI lost count of the number of times that we learnt of decisions that had already been taken â€“ we were never invited to the meetings,â€ says Mr Armitage. â€œThen we would get back on the gerbil wheel [the normal calendar of meetings] even though we often didnâ€™t know about decisions that had already been taken.â€
Naturally, Mr Bushâ€™s most secretive decisions were not subjected to expert scrutiny. Sometimes, such as when the Iraqi army was disbanded shortly after the US invasion, the president was unaware of decisions carried out in his name. Particularly since Katrina, his style of decision-making grew into his chief badge of notoriety. For months after 9/11, Mr Bush enjoyed the highest ratings of any president in American history. He leaves office with the lowest. â€œThat takes some doing,â€ says James Lindsay, a politics professor at Texas university.
It’s obviously way too soon to tell if President Obama will be the kind of pragmatic leader he’s promised to be, but if he delivers on that goal then I will look back fondly on Bush’s 8 years. Because there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that President Obama wouldn’t have been possible if not for The Decider.