Yahoo News asked voters to consider President George W. Bush's triumphs and failures as his presidential library opens Thursday in Dallas: What events will shape his legacy? Would a visit to the library change voters' views of him? Here are some selected perspectives and tweets we received.
Wars on credit and economic collapse -- that's W's legacy: Those credit-based wars, combined with the Bush tax cuts' continuous extensions, hamstrung the country when the economy collapsed late in Bush's second term. Like him, hate him, or anywhere in between, no one can deny that Bush's legacy is murky at best. No greater evidence of his political toxicity is the non-existent role he played in last year's presidential campaign. The Romney camp seemed bound and determined to keep Bush's name as far away from Mitt as humanly possible.
Here in North County San Diego, the effects of the Bush Administration are felt in our schools, where No Child Left Behind instead left us all in the dust. It's hard to imagine a time when George W. Bush's presidency won't be marred by mistakes, both foreign and domestic, that left us in a much more precarious position than when he took office in 2001. But you never know how history will judge someone decades from now.
-- James Schlarmann, San Diego
Bush didn't necessarily make us safer: In response to the 9/11 attacks, Bush signed the Patriot Act, which broadened powers to gather intelligence and track financial transactions. In 2011, Congress passed a four-year extension to certain parts of the bill. What I find most troubling is that there seems to be no way to reverse the powers we've given to these government agencies.
Even if they legitimately required the powers to monitor active terrorist threats, when do these powers get taken away? Or are we happy to give them these powers indefinitely because of a vague war that we're fighting against no one in particular. Yes, we're fighting a general war on terror… but when does this "war" end?
-- Lisa Zadok, San Francisco
9/11 and Bush always in the same breath: Bush's legacy will always be defined by 9/11. On that morning in September, I was working in Oklahoma City -- probably the second most sensitive spot to a terrorist threat there was that day. A lot of people were in shock all over the nation, but in OKC it seemed as if it was a bit worse. When the nation was asking, "How could this happen?" Oklahoma City was asking, "How could this happen again?"
President Bush came on the television and conveyed a sense of urgency and sadness rolling into controlled anger. But it was his words that stuck with me on that day as I pulled into a local motel to get off the road: "A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America."
The Patriot Act, the Gulf War and all the things that followed are sure to be in the President George W. Bush timeline. It was how he faced the horror, terror and sadness of Sept. 11, 2001, without blinking that, to me, defined his presidency.
-- Bill Mattler, Bentonville, Ark.
Controversy taints Bush's legacy -- but there is some redemption: President Bush's legacy will be remembered as polarizing for left-of-center and centrist Americans. Other controversies include his practice of adding signing statements to legislation, the CIA leak scandal, setting up Guantanamo Bay for indefinitely detaining suspects, the use of torture tactics like waterboarding, and an administrative disregard for global warming and a multitude of environmental concerns. It wouldn't, however, be fair to paint his presidency as all bad in the view of an environmentalist. He did create the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument to preserve those locations as protected places.
-- Shawn Humphrey, Germantown, Md.
Environment ignored, damaged under Bush: The single most notable legacy of George W. Bush's presidency: He promoted policies that continued to degrade our biosphere during a very important window of opportunity when real action could have made a great difference.
Given the strong scientific evidence of how humanity is destroying the world's forests, fishing out the seas, and altering the climate, it is hard to fathom how a global leader with access to credible information could have done nothing. The last Bush term did see a respectable protected area established around the northern Hawaiian Islands, which is a solid contribution, but in the future this president will likely be known most for being a do-nothing, denialist leader who had a chance to do something useful -- but didn't.
-- David Olson, Burbank, Calif.
I won't remember George W. Bush fondly: This country changed under former President George W. Bush, and it was not for the better. The seething partisanship that started to bloom during the Bill Clinton era exploded. Not only did Bush lead us into two seemingly endless wars overseas, but he bandied the battle cry, raised his sword and, in the same way he dubbed himself "The Decider," declared political war.
There was no more discussion. No more compromise. This country became one consisting of two camps: the one who supported Bush and his fellow Republicans; and the rest who didn't matter.
-- Isa-Lee Wolf, Chicago
George W. Bush will be remembered for war: President George W. Bush will always be defined by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and what followed. Al Qaeda, by attacking the American homeland, had not only messed with the wrong country, but messed with the wrong president.
It should be noted that despite inveighing against much of the strategy Bush pursued in the War on Terror, from the Patriot Act to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama has largely, albeit perhaps not as well, adhered to that strategy. What Bush arrived at through clear thinking and moral clarity, Obama stuck to out of a concession to reality.
-- Mark Whittington, Houston
Financial woes will mark Bush: The financial stability of the economy during Bush's years was questionable at best. The Bush tax cuts were designed to get the country moving in the right direction. However, it was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. So was the money we paid for the wars.
I have nothing personal against this president; I realize he was doing the best he thought for the country at the time. And, years later, Americans may reflect on this man's two terms as president and see redeeming qualities we don't see now.
Good luck, George.
-- Ken Vogel, Perry, Mich.
- Politics & Government
- Bush tax cuts