Many are writing retrospectives to castigate the man who took office in 2001. I am not sanguine in that as it demonstrates only vitriol on the part of the writer and lack of understanding what a President is, what powers a President has and what the limitations on the Presidency are. I have heard much over the last 8 years that, if applied to previous occupants of the office, would have been laughed at as foolishness, non-sense and the inability of the writer to apply how the Presidency is crafted and how the tradition of it is carried through by each occupant. If any castigate George W. Bush they must castigate all Presidents at least as far back as Theodore Roosevelt and his doctrine of an 'expansive view of Presidential powers' to Abraham Lincoln and doing what was necessary in war to hold the Nation together and even as far back as Jefferson in regards to the Barbary Pirates and Washington in regards to the Whisky Rebellion and Neutrality stance he took. Thus I find the modern critics wanting in retrospectives and will attempt to put those things I see as necessary that have been done, left fallow or put at risk.
Many will disagree with this, and that is fine as it is my personal view only.
This departing President was tested as the one before him was in his early days: with multiple attacks on US soil. His predecessor's response to slayings by a radical Islamist outside the CIA was lack luster and so, too, was his response to the first WTC attack. This pattern was not followed after 9/11/2001 and this President brought war to those who sought to wage unaccountable war upon the US and the world. That is to the good. He did not back up his immediate understanding of this type of war that included the 'Wanted Dead or Alive' concept. He was gravely and deeply mistaken in that and has left the Nation at future risk against those who wage Private War called terrorism or piracy. He did not seek to follow that initial response up and understand it in the realm of war, and so we are left naked in many areas where our Citizens can and should provide personal backing. To those who complain there is no 'sacrifice' in this war we are fighting, they mean economic. I mean personal commitment with one's blood and staking their honor to fight for the Nation against those who seek Private War. That is the Western tradition when personal, unaccountable actors take up arms against Nations: you empower your Citizenry to use all private means to hunt them down and bring equal pain to what they inflicted upon the Nation.
What he did was neither all good, nor all bad. He understood threat but not scope of response available and limited that to the highest cost one available to him. Just as the European powers would refuse to send warships in force or allow private captains to take war to the Barbary Pirates, so too did Jefferson use the US Navy and give authorization for private reprisals. We have forgotten that lesson of warfare and it will be our doom unless remedied.
In second instance this President had redeemed the word of his father that had not been redeemed by the intervening President. To the shame of the Nation we agreed to a cease fire with a hegemonic tyrant who would seek any way to defeat us. He was given a chance to keep his word FOR a cease fire. And failed. After months of build-up and a mere 100 hours of combat, this last President's father stopped and set a tyrant loose again when he would have been easily and cheaply defanged with the support of the world. The intervening President did worse than nothing and was seen as having no resolve at all, no ability to act and dithered time and again at every breach of the cease-fire agreement. He was unwilling to see that a leader who cannot keep his word during war, will feel no need to do so during peace and will, indeed, see you as weak if you give into him. That war should have been finished in 1992 and we would be done by now with Iraq. Years ago. That is the cost of war delayed that we faced and this President realized that if he let that go any longer our word as a Nation and a People would be meaningless to the world. The right place and time to fight it was when we had supreme power after Desert Storm. Doing nothing delayed doing something and if you complain about the cost of this minor back alley brawl, then you do not want to see what real war *is*. By the skill and courage of our soldiers we have prevailed over a tyrant, over the terrorists who sought to destabilize a key part of the Middle East and pushed them back by having them show how ruthless they are to those who FOLLOW their religion.
Doing that was worth the price paid in Iraq, and it was far lower in the terms of lives lost and wounded, cost as a part of the National budget and actual length when compared to the next great complained about war in Vietnam. How strange all of those calling Iraq the worst war of all time have now diminished Vietnam, the First World War, Second World War, Civil War of the United States, Revolutionary War... these must now be seen as cheap and easy, no? Iraq has followed the traditional US pattern set in the Philippines of initial liberation and long COIN campaign. They each had about the same number of soldiers, took about the same amount of time, and the one in the Philippines cost far more lives mostly due to climate claiming so many.
At no time during these conflicts has the US economy been put on a war time footing. We did not do 'guns and butter' and, instead, slathered on pork and tried to starve the troops. This President fought that, but it was due to a misplaced sense that the peace time economy could withstand what would happen to anything but a war footing. That does not mean high taxation, although that is likely. We have a great and deep well of talent in the US and asking for *help* from it is not beneath the dignity of any President, ever. It would be possible to have sought, from the private sector, more technical help, more commitment from individuals and give companies tax breaks on donating old equipment to two Nations we helped to liberate so they could stand up something closer to a modern economy for production and manufacturing. The industrial might of the US would have dried up terrorism in an instant if it was committed through the President to help these two Nations stand up on their own and dedicate time and effort to our poorest allies in doing the same with them so they would not be slighted. That is 'sacrifice' without taxation but high reward to those that sacrifice, to those we liberate and to our friends and allies in the world to demonstrate we are not afraid of their competition to us. We welcome it.
The necessity of a war time economy can and should be beyond mere taxation and 'donation drives' for scrap metal as seen in WWII. We are not so deeply in need of raw material as in that war, but in need of the technical and industrial prowess of our private sector. This basic necessity has gone undone, and we will pay for that by being seen as cheap, stingy and unwilling to commit to liberty and freedom in a meaningful way to help others uplift themselves from poverty and create good lives where they all have a say in government and radicals get short shrift as they want to make everyone poor under them and enrich themselves. That is the greatest weapon the United States can deploy, stronger than any missile or bomb and it sits gathering dust next to the Lost Ark of the Covenant somewhere in a warehouse.
Competent Administration from the Executive must ensure the liberty of all Citizens. That requires equal enforcement of the law put in place by Congress and adhering to Judicial findings with each of them. This President has had a lackluster term in this regard as he does not seek to uphold the duties of office as he swore to which would ensure the safety of the Nation by its Laws, not just its Military might. Those things that allows us to be a Sovereign Nation must be done absolutely above all others, and in that this departing President has failed the Nation. Our borders remain unsecured and in his two terms we have seen our southern neighbor deteriorate rapidly into criminal insurgency. Much is spurred by narcotics money from regions in South America, some is fueled by money from outside non State actors including terrorists and criminal concerns, and all of it is due to the inability of Mexico to enforce its own laws, enforce ethics upon its police and judiciary and to properly husband their resources and economy to protect the poorest within their own Nation. When we created NAFTA we forgot that the Law of Nations trumps the Wealth of Nations and that our own security as a Nation and those signing the treaty is paramount. Thus our low end industrial market shifted to Mexico, creating factories and jobs and taking the poor from their fields. Then a shift in labor rate and low cost shipping moved those jobs overseas and the US large scale agribusiness shot holes in the Wealth of Nations concept that industrial and production might would play no role in agriculture. Mexican farmers were outcompeted by large scale US agribusiness, making the traditional path from poverty no longer available. Then we shifted jobs out from Mexico and those people could find no employment. Then we had a wonderful idea of using food crops for fuel, and the skyrocketing cost of basic food stocks brought true problems to Mexico that no longer had a rural farm basis. Is it any wonder that people turned to the employer of last resort, which is crime?
In not securing our borders, we now have hit squads from multiple criminal organizations hosted in Mexico seeking to dominate crime venues in the US. We are now faced with the next COIN deployment for the US Armed Forces not being in Iraq or Afghanistan or the Philippines or even overseas: it will be in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma... that is no longer mere prognostication on my part, but the results of the military analysis in DoD. Both internally to NORTHCOM and externally, the next COIN fight will be on our soil and that of Mexico. While this failure cannot wholly be owned by this departing President, it being the failure of his predecessors back to President Carter, he can and should be faulted for not only doing NOTHING but encouraging less secure borders for the Nation. Those spouting Reconquista in the US will find that criminal concerns do not brook laws and Nationalism as they hinder it, thus those seeking to weaken the US will also be those first at peril if the rule of law collapses: not from our citizens but from those seeking to destabilize the Nation. That is how revolutions and insurgencies go: they eat their young. Which, in this case, are those fostering them. We are faced with a Nation mighty enough to win far-flung wars in the hardest way possible and yet lose itself to the easiest things to do as a Nation. That is a paramount threat to the liberty of all citizens of the US and the world, as absent the rule of law we will see the rule of the strongman return. While we have suffered no terrorist attacks upon our Nation since 9/11, we now see a total dissolving of order in Mexico that will threaten death and chaos in our Nation far beyond what 9/11 could do.
As the President is given the duty to protect the Nation from threats 'foreign and domestic', and he is given the Admiralty power over the administration of the Laws of the Sea by our naval units (public and private registered to the US), and as he is commander of the Armies and the Navies, the President must respect the boundary of the Nation and her People within those bounds, and the laws set by Congress for Treaties and other measures that come to the territory of the US. There have been more complaints on this topic of a disingenuous nature than on nearly any other one. In both instances he has used the power of Head of State, Commander of the Armies and the Navies, his Admiralty power and that of the Head of the Nation in ways that all other Presidents have during war and peace. We are no strangers to keeping prisoners over seas during foreign wars: we did not ship to the US captured Germans or Japanese or Italians. Against a foe who declaims that no Nation will have authority over them and that they revert to the Law of Nature and claim all of their rights and liberties, bar none, to themselves, these terrorists have no claim to the protection of the Laws of War and Peace nor the Law of Nations, both of which support the civil utilization of war powers by Nations, not by individuals who are not taking part in a National activity. In falling outside the reach of any Treaty these individuals have previously fallen into articles of military conduct written by Abraham Lincoln, and yet this President refuses to acknowledge that President Lincoln promulgated military law in this realm. If he cannot remember what the founder of his own party did, is it any wonder that no one else in the Nation can do so?
Similarly, when outside the confines of US territory, including US flagged ships at sea and our extra-territorial spaces in Embassies, US Citizens are not subject to US law save for those communications between citizens of the US. And even those have been curbed during war time as seen by censorship during warfare. That censorship goes beyond purely military matters and into civil communications that may be taking place between our adversaries under guise of other means. Similarly the only Civil Law that can be applied is the Piracy Code as it covers the activities of terrorists completely, and specific terrorism codes must be considered secondary... that is if we had decent understanding of the laws on these things. Under both the actual communication with terrorists acting contrary to the Law of Nations is punishable, not just by Civil Law.
Similarly acting outside the Geneva Conventions, as Civilians, in ways that do not conform to them, such as reporting on incidents of deaths to soldiers without respecting the dead or giving the Nation involved time to review those works is also contrary to federal law and abrogates the responsibilities your Nation has signed you up for via international agreement. Thus those agencies showing the deaths of soldiers that do *not* hand those over to the military authorities and airing them before families have been notified are in violation of the statutes that support the enforcement of the Geneva Conventions which applies to civilian activity in war zones as well as numerous military regulations regarding information in war zones under that treaty.
The concept of expanding the US Constitution to cover the planet is one that is not only contrary to US law but to international agreements which strictly address that citizens have restrictions upon them by common agreements known as treaties. The idea that 'civil rights' trump international accords when signed by the President, approved by the Senate and legislation enacted by Congress is quite astounding. If those laws are found in non-agreement with previous Constitutional provisions, of course, then they are to be struck down by the Courts as those treaties are only at the level of, but do not amend, the Constitution. I have yet to hear any citation of what rights are being lost when the President acts in the international arena using the powers of the Presidency to protect the Nation in areas that Congress cannot cover as they are not given Sovereign Power to do so, being restricted to a very few international powers, mostly concerning warfare, approval of treaties in the Senate and then enacting legislation to support such treaties. Appealing to the international treaty on civil rights misses the last item in it, that specifically lays out that anyone not abiding by their Nation State responsibilities are not covered by that treaty.
In these two areas the President is given wide powers as those are the Sovereign Powers of the Nation invested in the Office of President. There is no 'co-equal' power relationship to Sovereign Powers amongst the branches of the federal government. There are checks and balances, but no co-equivalence of power. Each Sovereign Power has its own limitations and bounds, and in interfering with those bounds outside of checks and balances, those branches of government seeking to do so put the entire Nation at risk. To date that has not happened as final judicial review involving these items has demonstrated the proper operation of these Powers within the bounds given to them. If you don't like it that rented property by the government overseas is not subject to direct federal power, then perhaps you should ask for the invasion of said country to take it over and bring it under full US purview. Of course we have lots of such properties in Japan, Australia, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Philippines...a good argument can be made that the US government should have NO rental property outside of the those territories held by the US or as extra-territorial enclaves called Embassies, but I do not hear that as an argument given by anyone, even if it is the logically consistent one for the items involved.
The freedom of the Citizens of the United States to act in pursuit of their liberty is a prime concern and the major concern of government. With that said, the government is given strict powers and bounds for laws and enforcement to respect the rights and freedoms of the individual. President Bush in no way came in on a platform to keep government intervention in the lives of the individual citizen down, and, quite the contrary, came in with a package of seeking to insert more government at its largest scales into religion, schools and the economy on some premise that 'conservative values' can be aided by more intrusive and larger government. It is very strange that the 'conservative' values that President Ronald Reagan ran on have been so ill served by Conservatives in power for the past three decades. There is apparently a large discrepancy amongst 'conservatives' that run for office on what they believe in, what they say and what they do. An Elitist position, on the Left and Right, has been one in which government is no longer recognized as a necessary evil, but as some benefactor to the Nation and individuals. When considered as a necessary evil, we seek even-handed justice and application of the law from government, but when those in power try to make government selective, to help some over others and to promulgate non-equality under the law, government is no boon but an evil enhanced to force compliance with the Citizens of the Nation.
I do not question that the outgoing President is intelligent: he has made many good and skilled moves to shift Iraq from a deadly, on-going peril to one of full transition to local representative democracy and peace. The evidence of that intelligence is plain. Just as plain is his misguided ideas on using government to minister to the people of the United States and not *serve* them evenly, equally and with justice for all. Complaining about statutes that Congress passes is one thing, and as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the Nation, the President must uphold the laws. The outgoing President has chosen to ignore robust enforcement of laws that would protect the Nation at its borders from a growing criminal insurgency, but has been more than willing to apply ill-made law by Congress to the economy so as to promulgate decades old social concepts that see those unable to pay for housing being given low cost loans. Congress has mandated *both*, but this President has been very selective of equal protection of the law and safeguarding of the Nation's safety and economy. It is the responsibility of the Office of the Executive to *question* such laws IN COURT if he sees them as a threat to the Nation and well-being and safety of its Citizens. The housing 'bubble' that was inflated by Congressional mandate starting with the Community Reinvestment Act and then having regulations on lenders removed and actually forcing them to give loans to those unable to pay (the NINJA borrower: No Income, No Job or Assets) has put the economy into a position where 'bailing out' these companies that were daft enough to try and profit off of Congressional guidance that went beyond sound fiscal concerns in borrowing and lending practices as a 'good thing'.
Not only is that not a 'good thing', this encouraging non-sound fiscal policy, but the very laws that caused this are STILL on the books to this very day and continuing to damage the Nation. The President is to be a check and balance on Congressional law making by challenging ill-conceived laws that threaten the Nation in court. All the way to the Supreme Court. In not doing so, and in trying to get his own vision of 'good things' government can do, we lose the blessing of government that is impartial to the tyranny of one that is biased. Not only is that a long-term loss for the Nation, but the actual parts that get enacted, such as the 'No Child Left Behind' Act, turn out to be a waste of time and money, put more regulation on local schools from the federal level and continues a process of slow federalization of the schools that began in the 1970's. This was done in reaction to Johnny being unable to read and the sad fact is that with all the hundreds of billions poured in from the federal level, Johnny is *still* reading at the exact *same* rate as he was in 1958. Apparently money and federal oversight with various forms of good ideas has done NOTHING to help that, and has actually made the problem worse by creating a huge, officious bureaucracy that now tells local schools what to do for the pittance they receive from the federal level. Yet, when under pure, local control and cost guidance the schools did JUST AS WELL as they do now. That is not 'conservatism': that is Progressivism to think that all solutions lie with larger, more powerful central government. With decades showing the contrary, that larger central government is a horror and bane to individual liberty and freedom, we still hear 'conservatives' who want to try and change a necessary evil to something pure and good, even when their wisdom tells them that this is just an agency of easily corruptible mortals who will seek more power to themselves so as to dictate to their fellow man, 'Compassionate Conservatives' think that is GOOD.
It is not.
It is the worst form of evil imaginable in a representative democracy with a limited government system made to secure the rights and liberty of each individual. And it is these very, same 'conservatives' who *complain* when 'liberals' use the exact, same tools they have made stronger to OTHER ENDS than what the 'conservatives' wanted. And yet they are the very ones voting to approve those tools, weaken the Constitution and expand the federal government into areas where it has ZERO power. The 'commerce clause' is now so distorted that the federal government feels it can now regulate purely intra-state markets for trade that does NOT go outside the purely local. That goes far beyond growing pot for oneself and one's friends, and is a critical step in the direction of putting all markets at all levels under pure federal control.
Of course none of President Bush's critics on the Left ever speak of this as this empowers their agenda of putting more power into government hands and out of local control and oversight. You cannot start a tyrannical regime *without* such concentration of power, and doing so changes the necessary evil of government into something repressive to the liberty of the common man by taking responsibility for purely local and personal affairs out of the hands of the individual, local and State governments. Now even the States, which were once the strong backbone and vital organs of the Nation, are suffering and seek 'bailouts' and succor from federal government. They do not look to their people, first, but upwards to those that have less ability to adapt. That is an abrogation of State level representative democracy and being held accountable to the people of a State due to the actions taken at the federal level to encourage State governments to invest and spend unwisely.
That is a prescription for failure of the Nation and our compact amongst the People to give government only a limited set of things to do to safeguard the Nation, liberty and freedom. When government begins to think it is good and can hand out 'rights' then we are denying the self-evident truth of all men being created equal and having all rights endowed to them upon their creation as people. I really don't want government at the highest level getting into deciding to intervene for the unborn as we have seen the wicked ways that tends when we give it something simple like protecting the borders. If it can't figure that out, then being 'nice' to give everyone 'equal access' to health care is an illusion to having your health, well being and ultimate death decided by and for government, not by you. By trying to 'protect' such things at the federal level outside of the very limited constraints we give to the federal government, we begin to abuse our fellow citizens for the well being of the few, the powerful, the rich and the Elites at the cost of our liberty and freedom as individuals.
I deeply laud President Bush for his work in Afghanistan, Iraq and against terrorism.
Those immediate and long term threats had been neglected all the way back to the first attacks on US Embassies going back to the 1960's by terrorists. Of necessity for pure survival, and holding a tyrant accountable to his word, those had to be done and the power hungry and those seeking to destroy all Nations to their own evil ways confronted.
In other affairs of actually doing his job to secure the Nation, confront ill-guided and dangerous laws and to uphold the security of the Nation and individuals from ever more invasive and neglectful government, he has done less well and has actually empowered those seeking more power over the common man in America. Confronting the threat of terrorism abroad while neglecting narco-terrorism by criminal syndicates across the border in an effort of 'good will' is insane and will cost us more in time, money and lives than Iraq and Afghanistan combined as the threat can now walk into the Nation to kill its Citizens.
Exercising some foreign affairs well, to curb terrorists, and neglecting and even disdaining other duties to the Nation, he has left us with the horrific scenario of a criminal insurgency and weakened economy unable to properly confront it. I expect that future historians will laud the work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Africa, Philippines... and then scratch their heads on why he didn't use the exact SAME outlook on Mexico. How he could see that lower taxes can have the economy thrive, but ill-founded social ideas on handing out cash to those who can't repay it and do nothing about it could ever originate from the same man.
I have defended him on the things that I see he has done right.
Criticized him on those I have seen him do wrong.
And see that one set of threats has been confronted, while another set has grown immensely during his terms in office. If he had not confronted the threats we have had for decades we would be far worse off now, than at the start of his terms. He has not, however, upheld his duties to safeguard the Nation and its people in all areas under his purview and covered by the Oath of Office. Those who fretted about the blood and treasure spent in Iraq will now come face to face with blood and treasure spent in the desert south west of America.
If we are lucky.
If not, it will not be in other States, but in your front yard, gunning for you.
And being 'nice' will get you killed... or enslaved... to those willing to take up barbarism and reclaim their animal rights and liberties. They may be criminals or government functionaries seeking to 'secure' you and 'help' you and 'save' you. Then the cost is your own blood and treasure, if you can survive in the Iron Times that bring them to you.
We were born free.
We agreed to common laws and governance.
Now those are turned upon us by those who are ill-guided in their view that civilization is somehow 'nice'.
Now we will pay for this folly.