GWB’s Legacy: LBJ
As George W. Bush settles into his final two years, knowing that he’s lost his Congress and has become increasingly a lame duck, the question of his legacy looms large.
As Bush marks the Presidents Day holiday and George Washington’s 275th birthday on Monday, he faces a drumbeat a criticism for the event that will likely be a big part of his legacy — the Iraq war.
The president believes it will take some time to determine his place in the pantheon of presidents, despite the negative assessments some historians have already made.
“I don’t think you’ll really get the full history of the Bush administration until long after I’m gone. I tell people I’m reading books on George Washington and they’re still analyzing his presidency,” Bush told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview last month.
Unfortunately for Bush, I don’t think he’ll be mentioned in the same breath as any of the gentlemen planters of Virginia who founded this country. I shudder to think what an orator like Patrick Henry would have to say about Bush. However, he has a ready-made Texan to be compared to, and that comparison works in more ways than one: Lyndon Baines Johnson.
They both ramped up unpopular wars; LBJ at least having the distinction of not starting the Vietnam war, but only partly so, because he was VP in the administration that did start the war. Bush at least has two years to hopefully clean up Iraq, but may lose any political capital from that potential “win” if he invades Iran.
LBJ began the “Great Society”, initiatives which greatly expanded the federal role in education and began Medicare. Bush chose to leave no child behind by greatly expanding the federal role in education, and chose to greatly expand Medicare by instituting Medicare Part D.
LBJ found himself losing 47 Congressional seats to Republicans in 1966, ruining his chances of ending his presidency on a high note, and imperiling any future programs he would want to institute. Bush lost both houses of Congress to the Democrats, probably dooming his tax cuts to repeal and ensuring that he’ll make no headway on his plans to reform Social Security.
Unless Iraq turns into the model democracy that transforms the Arab world, Bush’s legacy will be one of failure on all fronts.