In an interview on CNN, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this:
You know, God bless him, bless his heart, president of the United States, a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject.
God bless Nancy, God bless her heart, but she has helped lead Congress to its lowest approval ratings in history, sometimes barely cracking double digits. It is now the least respected institution in American life – less respected, even, than HMOs. So Ms. Pelosi is probably not in the best position to make an argument about lack of credibility. That she does so in such a petty manner is simply confirmation of what we have long known.
On the Bush record: it is obviously not perfect, which is the case with every President (let alone two-term presidents). The chief failure was easily the Phase IV planning of the Iraq war, which was terribly mishandled; I would add as well the failure to get Congressional buy-in to our counter-terrorism policies in 2002 and the legal foundation on which some of the early policies were based (Jack Goldsmith, former Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, makes a critical but fair-minded critique of some of the Administration’s counter-terrorism polices in The Terror Presidency).
But even a brief scan of the Bush record presents a far different picture than what Pelosi lays out. That’s true if we’re talking about keeping America safe from attack in the aftermath of 9/11, which almost no one thought was possible in its aftermath; the surge, which one day may take its place alongside the most successful military plans in our history (and which Pelosi ludicrously called a “failure” just a few months ago, when the evidence long ago showed it to be indisputably successful); the Proliferation Security Initiative; Libya surrendering its WMD in the wake of the Iraq war; the global AIDS initiative and our commitment to the continent of Africa; stronger relations with countries ranging from India to Japan; unprecedented support for Israel; expanding free trade; and more.
On the domestic side, there are the Bush court nominees, which have been simply exceptional (including the appointments of Justices Roberts and Alito); No Child Left Behind, which has helped drive the increase in test scores and student learning; Health Savings Accounts and the Medicare prescription drug plan, which have introduced market reforms to our health care system; the president’s pro-life achievements, which are unmatched; his policy on stem cell research, which was vindicated when researchers, supported by federal dollars under Bush’s stem cell policy, discovered a way to reprogram regular adult cells into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without the need for the destruction of embryos; the president’s tax cuts, especially his 2003 tax cuts, which helped spur a lengthy and impressive period of economic growth (particularly in the aftermath of an inherited recession and the attacks on 9/11, which crippled several industries and cost us a million jobs in 90 days); and more.
It’s also worth pointing out as well, I suppose, that some historically important reforms, like personal savings accounts for Social Security, were blocked by Democrats. And so, now, are common sense and important energy initiatives.
I could, but I won’t, go on at length about the balance sheet of the Bush record — especially if Iraq continues on its current trajectory, Bush will come out just fine in the judgment of history. One can’t really say that about Speaker Pelosi. For now, perhaps it’s sufficient to simply say that with Nancy Pelosi as the (strangely tight-skinned) face of the Congress, it has found itself in a ditch.