- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2008

Whether his critics like it or not, President Bush will have a legacy.

He will become part of history, his words and deeds shaken out and sorted through by friend and foe alike. They will argue and maybe gesticulate, the din of their arguments distilled down to one-liners in the media feedback chamber:

Bush great. Bush courageous. Bush brilliant.

Bush bad. Bush lied. Bush dumb.

Noise or not, Mr. Bush will have his permanent place in history, and the dynamic is already in motion. Legacy wrangling has begun in print and broadcast; there’s talk we’ll one day have “Bush nostalgia” as Americans recall the heady days when Mr. Bush ran the White House on his own terms and with distinct cachet.

And there’s talk that a blight has descended on the 43rd presidency forever, and that’s that.

Time grows short, though. Mr. Bush has only got 1,560 hours or so before he walks out of the Oval Office for the last time. That’s 93,600 minutes.

“The direction of President Bush’s legacy will be driven by what happens in Iraq and the greater Middle East. If Iraq becomes an quasi-democracy that fights terror instead of giving birth to terrorists, and if that behavior spreads to other Arab nations, then Bush has a chance of being remembered as Ronald Reagan was remembered. Unpopular when leaving, but heralded later for fundamentally changing the world,” said Ari Fleischer, former White House spokesman.

“The first line in history’s judgment of George Bush is the way he responded to 9/11. And the top item is the fact we haven’t been attacked for seven years. Who among us would have thought on Sept. 12, 2001, that we’d ever be able to say that?” asked FOX News anchorman Chris Wallace.

“The jury is still out on Iraq. If we end up with another dictatorship or a radical regime there after the price we paid in blood and treasure, then it was a terrible waste,” Mr. Wallace continued.

“Overall, you have to say that Mr. Bush hurt the Republican brand. At the end of eight years, the party is less well regarded generally, its solutions to problems are not widely accepted,” he said. “This was a troubled presidency. Mr. Bush accomplished job No. 1 - to protect the homeland. On the war, I give him an incomplete, though it looks better than it once did.”

If success or failure in the Middle East is the litmus test of his legacy, then Mr. Bush could be looking at a soft landing.

Recent surveys released find that a majority of us now have positive perception of both the war in Iraq and our efforts against terrorism.

Seven out of 10 respondents in a Harris Poll released Nov. 10 said that Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein; 52 percent said he had “strong links” to al Qaeda. Forty-eight percent said history will credit the U.S. for bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq - and most telling, 37 percent of us still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003.

Favorable numbers continue in other research released in mid- to late October. A Rasmussen Reports poll found that 52 percent of voters said the U.S. and its allies are winning the war on terror - up from 39 percent a year ago.

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