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“No peace, no prosperity, and that is a bad mix,” Mr. Edwards said. “The hope is that Iraq will turn out to be a success story. He could also be credited for his policy on such things as prescription drugs or the No Child Left Behind initiative.”

Some observers credit Mr. Bush with more than just policy, however.

“Did Bush break the racial ‘yes we can’ long before Obama?” asked Phil Bronstein, a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Mr. Bush appointed not one but two African-American secretaries of state and the first African-American as secretary of education like it wasn’t any big deal. He also named the first Mexican-American as attorney general,” Mr. Bronstein said. “Here was a very conservative good old Texas fundamentalist Republican breaking a racial barrier without even blinking.”

Things will shake out in a few decades.

“It will matter 40 years down the road when it’s clear whether the Middle East did stabilize. Then historians will be asking if President George W. Bush was the man who broke all those eggs to make that omelet,” said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential historian with the University of Texas at Austin.

“He was controversial. That we know now. I can’t think of another president who threw so many long passes while he was in office,” Mr. Buchanan said.

“People have disliked him intensely at times. But not everyone. George Bush will always have a core of very loyal followers,” Mr. Edwards said. “He was - and is - a strong figure with strong views who wanted to be a bold leader.”