President Bush’s poor planning and lack of intelligent responses to many issues have spawned anti-Bush blocs in America and around the world. From gay-marriage to Guantánamo, his neo-con positions have drawn criticism from personalities as varied as Tim Kaine and Tim McGraw. But recently, Bush seems to have realized that he does not have to do everything wrong. The administration has careened backwards for six years, but it has accomplished enough in the last year to prove that a turnaround, though it may have come too late in this case, is not impossible. Between election coverage and the press’ prejudice against the administration, most of these accomplishments have been overlooked.
Appointing Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, a position that required intelligence, restraint and experience, was one of the most catastrophic mistakes of Bush’s tenure. Rumsfeld’s despicably cruel treatment of suspected terrorists, three of whom were released when given the chance to prove their innocence, tarnished America’s reputation while his callous disregard for the safety of our troops (“You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want”) brought the situation in Iraq to cataclysmic heights. But when President Bush decided it was time for a long-overdue change in personnel, he appointed Robert Gates, a smart, moderate man (and a Georgetown Law alumnus) as the new Secretary of Defense. Gates has since called for the closure of Guantánamo Bay and has stated that he does not believe that the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq. He will not admit that we are losing, either, but nevertheless it’s a step toward honesty.
In the same thoughtful vein, Bush appointed Gen. David Petraeus as the commander of troops in Iraq and made the risky but rewarding decision to send more soldiers to Iraq. Though the surge has been controversial, Iraq has since seen a marked decline in violence. Petraeus’ requests for ongoing troop occupation have been tempered by Gates’s calm skepticism, and a dialogue has emerged between these two important figures in the Iraq conflict—replacing a defective process in which the Bush administration called the shots without consulting outside parties.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Bush has finally decided to promise the creation of a Palestinian state in 2008. Though talks seem to have accomplished little so far, this show of support for a Muslim state is surprising given Palestine’s terrorist problems and ties to Hezbollah, and it bodes well for the future of U.S. foreign policy. As the administration had previously paid little attention to the reasonable demands of Israel’s enemies, the fact that Bush is willing to take such steps is an encouraging sign of progress.
Closer to home, the administration’s treatment of the global warming issue has done a heartening 180. Recently, U.S. delegates to the UN Framework Convention on climate change in Indonesia agreed to discuss a lasting plan to reduce climate change over the next few years. Though many Republicans still reject the research proving global warming, this decision reveals that the administration is finally ready to join the rest of the industrialized world and enter a serious conversation about responsible emissions control.
Though the president faces constant dissent and must deal with an economy in recession and a crumbling healthcare system, he has begun to make the progressive decisions that have been lacking over the last six years. And though he may never turn his attention to the millions of Americans that remain uninsured, his recent decisions have been encouraging. Maybe Bush has begun to worry about the way he will be viewed by history; maybe he has begun to actually feel compassion for the universe; maybe somebody hit him on the head. But whether he is motivated by the thought of his legacy or is beginning to come to grips with reality, we can hope that he will continue to surprise us.