"I George W. Bush do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God."
Today (Inauguration Day) I was sitting in the student center watching President Bush reaffirm his oath to protect the constitution of the United States. I sat and wondered, "what could he be thinking right now?" Only 42 other men in 200 plus years have been able to take that oath. Even fewer have been able to take it more then once (18 to be exact, now 19). Men like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, McKinnely, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton. Quite the company Bush II has put himself in. Men who have: established a solid foundation for the nation during it's infancy, reunited the United States through a civil war, lead in times of tremendous progress, won world wars, and help in the fall of communist Russia are all represented in this list.
So the question again, "what was Bush thinking as he took that oath?" Well I obviously will never exactly know, but I know what I would be thinking. I would think about how I will stack up against those other great presidents. The word legacy is used often when the president is nearing the end of his public service. Basically what will Joe American high schooler read about in his history book when Bush 43 comes up? I see three potential scenarios...
1. Bush is viewed as a great leader in times of crisis on a par with FDR. 9/11 being his defining moment with the stable democratic Iraq his grand finale.
2. Bush is viewed as rising to the occasion on 9/11 and providing solid leadership in a time of crisis. The folly of the second Gulf War will have him remembered as a good not great president.
3. 9/11 fell into Dubya's lap and basically won him a second term. Any president would have looked like a hero in that situation. He then used that new found public trust to deceive the American people into supporting a war to finish off his daddy's business. To top it off Iraq became an unstable country and many American lives were lost.
The ultimate goal of the next four years of the Bush Administration will be to make #1 true. Will that happen? Probably not. The most likely scenario is #2. Unfortunately Iraq will end up putting a giant black mark on what could have been a presidency on par with the likes of Reagan. Democracy in Iraq is just too daunting a task for any man. Too much religious radical thought is present there for a democratic republic to function. The Iraqi people do not want democracy bad enough to die for it or they would have overthrown Sadam long ago. In fact, many in Iraq are willing to die to ensure democracy does not work in Iraq. The biggest shame of the whole thing is young men are losing their lives for this lost cause. The war on terror and the war in Iraq are two different things. If anything, Iraq has taken away from the war on terror.
Some would argue that those expectations are way too high and impossible to reach, but being President requires doing the impossible. So if George W. Bush somehow makes Iraq work he will have accomplished the impossible, he will have a legacy that will approach that of Reagan, but that is unlikely to happen in the mind of this writer. Unfortunately, Bush 43 will be remembered as "The President that lost his focus."
Bet ya Dubya wasn't thinking that.