What is George W. Bush’s Legacy?

By Cliff Springs

President George W. Bush

I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks back about President Bush’s legacy. Like many who lean leftward, my friend has spent the past 8 years disparaging President Bush at every opportunity. The President has been portrayed as stupid, a cowboy, arrogant, and reckless.

In our polarized political climate, it’s become common to vilify the opposition–outrageous comparisons to Hitler and such. Despite your political leanings, despite your opinions on the familiar Bush criticisms, I would ask everyone who reads this to set aside your hot buttons just for a moment and honestly consider what I believe to be an incredible achievement that has been unfortunately dismissed without proper appreciation. In my mind, only one thing defines Bush’s legacy: for seven years since 9/11, Bush has kept my family–and yours–safe. Period.

But even that is simplifying something that is truly far more significant. Let me explain.

Think back to that life-changing day. We all watched the horror, the precision with which the terrorists massacred innocent people. They didn’t just hit us. They hit us good. They bloodied bodies and our national psyche. Every one of us assumed that 9/11 marked the beginning of an era in which we would face each day with the constant threat of terrorism.

Would our children be safe at school? Terrorists don’t discriminate-they don’t care who they kill. Where should I go or not go? Is the mall safe-there are a lot of people there? What about football games or other sports events–a lot of people packed into a small area? What new methods will they use? Those terrorists are evil and crafty. Anything and everything could seemingly become a new weapon of death and destruction.

You remember the feeling-the helplessness, the sickening feeling of watching something so senseless. The awareness that everything we once knew would now be different. Our new reality was one of fear and random danger–exactly what the terrorists sought.

But Bush said, “Go shopping.”

Critics mocked him. They cite the fact that Bush didn’t call on us all to collectively sacrifice for the war effort. To them, this was just another example of how simple and dumb Bush must be. Couldn’t he come up with something inspiring-some form of “ask what you can do for your country” type of rallying cry?

It indeed sounds simplistic to those who don’t pause to grasp its profoundness.

Let’s think back to that horrible day again (or better yet, go online and watch video clips-the feelings will come rushing back). We watched frightened people jump from the top floors of burning skyscrapers. Innocent people jumping to their deaths rather than burning alive. Innocent people. Innocent people!!! That means we’re all in danger. Who’s next? You? Me? My Mom or Dad? My children–my beautiful, innocent children? We were fuming and we were afraid. We held our loved ones close. This was not the world in which we wanted to raise our children.

Unlike war we had seen in the past, terrorists don’t arrive in armored tanks. They don’t march in platoons wearing camouflage uniforms. A terrorist can walk into a crowd, flip some switch, and kill people you love. This happens on the other side of the world–not in America. Please, God, not in America! Be honest with yourself: could you imagine we would be here 7 years later without another attack? Not me. I hoped and I prayed, but I had no reason to believe it wouldn’t happen again.

Bush told us to go shopping. Brilliant. It was a card so well-played that most of us overlooked the deft “strategery”.

Bush stood before us and said–”No. That’s not the America we’re going to live in. We’re not going to live in fear. I will stand guard. Live your lives. I will take the fight to the terrorists on the other side of the world. I will plant a democracy in the heart of the world where the terrorist mindset thrives. Take your children to the park, to the mall, to the football game. I will protect you. The terrorists WILL NOT CHANGE AMERICA!”

Actually, he didn’t say all that. He said, “Go shopping.”

And other than some new procedures for air travel, very little of our day-to-day lives have changed. Brave men and women of our military, homeland security, and local law enforcement carry this burden for us and ensure that America remains America.

Think back to that day. Be honest with yourself–regardless of how you think you feel about Bush. You KNEW it would happen again–it was just a matter of time. Maybe not on the same scale as 9/11, but the emotional damage was done. You thought America had changed-just like the terrorists wanted.

But we’ve had seven safe years.

Yet Bush knew it wasn’t enough just to BE safe. He knew America had to FEEL safe too. Anything less, and the terrorists win. His message was short, succinct, and exactly what we needed. He asked us to do something mundane, something utterly normal and beautifully free–and eventually, magically, our fears subsided. In some ways, you could argue that it worked so well that some of our citizens may be overlooking the fact that radical Islam is a very real continuing threat-but that’s because our citizens feel safe enough to focus on political minutiae. I guess that kind of proves my point.

Bush said, “Go shopping.” Because he did, my children will grow up in the same America I did. He didn’t just defend American people. He defended the very heart of what America is.

For me, that’s a legacy that trumps all else. On behalf of my family, I sincerely thank you, President Bush.

 –CS

 

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