In case you haven't heard, a peacefuly transition of power will take place today in the capital city of the most powerful nation in the history of the world.
A few thoughts.
First, on the future. President-elect Obama is a charismatic man who gives inspiring speeches. I'm still, however, not sure what he believes. Even today, reports conflict on what he will change or not change with respect to Bush's executive orders, Iraq policy, labor policy, and tax policy. Will he support the Freedom of Choice Act, effectively destroying all restrictions that have been placed on abortion, as he said he would do as one of his first acts? Will he support the Employee Freedom of Choice Act, effectively allowing unions to bully workers into joining their ranks, as he had done in the Senate? Will he once again allow US funding of forced abortions in China through the United Nations Population Fund, as President Clinton did? I guess we'll see. He's seemed to be a pragmatic man thus far, and it seems that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi aren't too happy with him behind closed doors. Since those two are worse than the scum in a dorm bathroom floor, Obama must be doing something right. Here's hoping that Obama succeeds in that which I agree with him on and that he fails in that which I disagree. Here's also hoping that the fair-weather patriots from Hollywood go snivel around a bit for the next few years as the well dries up on luxury spending and decreases their movies' revenues.
The thing that many people seem to have missed today is that George W. Bush is also leaving the White House. The media seems to give him a few token words (CNN is not even mentioning him, though it has a full article about George H.W. Bush saying goodbye to the White House), but no one is really taking the time for a long, even if hostile, memoriam of his presidency.
President Bush came into office in one of the worst possible ways. He had lost the popular vote, eked out a win in Florida, and been given barely over a month for a transition. He had promised to bring people together. Arriving after the debacle of the election, Democrats on the Hill were in no mood for bipartisanship. They believed from Day One that he wasn't their president and that he had 'stolen' the election. Bush got no honeymoon, but he set about trying to enact the policies he had promised during the campaign: Medicare reform, public school reform, and, most importantly, restoring respect to America's highest office. Then came September 11.
Many people roll their eyes now when September 11 is mentioned. To some extent, that's warranted; some people use that day to justify all sorts of terrible things. However, on that day, President Bush became a war president. He acted decisively and impressively, especially in that first year after the attack. He made the decision to invade Iraq.
I agree with Christopher Hitchens. Love or hate Bush's decision to invade, it was, in many ways, housecleaning. For decades, Iraq had been a nagging issue. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and the rest of the Democratic party establishment said in the 1990's that Iraq would have to be dealt with finally and conclusively. They weren't willing to do it. George Bush was. The intelligence was bad, so the justification for the war was never fulfilled. However, to this day, there is nothing more than the blathering left that can convince me that "Bush lied, people died." The President acted in good faith. It didn't work for a while, the war was executed abysmally, but then, with a bright new general, it turned around. Today, Iraq is effectively a non-issue. Given the state of the war two years ago, that is certainly something.
Certainly, there are issues with civil liberties and with cronyism--particularly in the Justice Department--that were foibles of the President's. There was an arrogance in his administration when their approval ratings were in the 70's and 80's. America had influence to spare, and they spent it. In the end, however, George Bush leaves office having succeeded in the one thing that he desired. He kept another terrorist incident from happening on our soil. History will never know fully what was or wasn't prevented. In that way, there may never be a full rehabilitation in his image. However, he leaves as a man who did his duty as he saw fit, who greatly respected the Office of the Presidency in a way his predecessor never did, and who was and is a profoundly decent man. For all his mistakes, I still like him as a man, and I wish him and his lovely wife a happy and healthy retirement.