A post I knew I’d have to write sometime before January 2009

Both Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong go off on Fred Hiatt’s column in the Washington Post yesterday. Hiatt’s lament first: As the Bush presidency implodes, some of its worst policies mercifully will go, too — including, we can hope, the torture and unregulated detention of alleged enemy fighters that have so discredited the country throughout ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

Both Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong go off on Fred Hiatt's column in the Washington Post yesterday. Hiatt's lament first: As the Bush presidency implodes, some of its worst policies mercifully will go, too -- including, we can hope, the torture and unregulated detention of alleged enemy fighters that have so discredited the country throughout the world. But valuable strands of policy also may end up strewn in the wreckage, victims (in varying combinations) of President Bush's ineptitude, inconstancy and unpopularity. Among these are what Bush called compassionate conservatism, now moribund; American promotion of democracy abroad, now flailing; and accountability in elementary and high school education, losing ground as it approaches a major test in Congress.This prompts the following from Yglesias: There's just no story here. The Bush administration has almost no positive legacy, and on those areas where good things have happened (NCLB and AIDS funding are the two I can think of) Democrats show every sign of wanting to continue the positive and perhaps make some improvements around the margin. DeLong goes even further, however: The policies that were Bush's weren't valuable. The policies that were valuable weren't Bushes--they were either implemented by others or they never got implemented, being for the Bushies at most boob bait for the bubbas who populate the Washington Post editorial board. Look, let's stipulate that on many dimensions, the Bush administration has implemented policies that border on catastrophic. On other dimensions, there's simply been either benign or malign neglect. I'm not claiming here that George W. Bush has done anything close to a great job. On foreign policy, the issue I care about, the only two president who come close to matching Bush's negatives in the past 50 years are Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson. With all of this so stipulated, DeLong's statement is simply false. Here are ten policies that team Bush implemented that I would qualify as a) important; b) constructive; c) not simply a continuation of prior policies; and d) not guaranteed to persist in their current form or at current funding levels past 2009: 1) The Millennium Challenge Corporation 2) The Strategic Economic Dialogue with China 3) The Proliferation Security Initiative 4) Our bilateral policy towards India (general warming trend + civilian nuclear deal) 5) Applying the post-Enron brakes on corporate governance regulations (Remember, when it was passed, Sarbanes-Oxley was thought to be milquetoast reform; now it's though to be too onerous) 6) Appointing Ben Bernanke to replace Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman. 7) The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (I'm being optimistic about Senate passage here). 8) Trying to cut China and India into existing global institutions. 9) Creating the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization in the State Department. 10) Creating the Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America (I confess that this one's in here mostly to annoy Lou Dobbs). None of this outweighs the screw-ups in Iraq or New Orleans. But they are policies that suggest Hiatt has a small point. Reflexively rejecting a Bush policy only because Bush proposed it is as stupid as... as.... rejecting Bill Clinton's policies because Clinton favored them (which is pretty much what the Bushies did when they took office in 2001). Question to readers: what other Bush policies do you want to see maintained?

Both Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong go off on Fred Hiatt’s column in the Washington Post yesterday. Hiatt’s lament first:

As the Bush presidency implodes, some of its worst policies mercifully will go, too — including, we can hope, the torture and unregulated detention of alleged enemy fighters that have so discredited the country throughout the world. But valuable strands of policy also may end up strewn in the wreckage, victims (in varying combinations) of President Bush’s ineptitude, inconstancy and unpopularity. Among these are what Bush called compassionate conservatism, now moribund; American promotion of democracy abroad, now flailing; and accountability in elementary and high school education, losing ground as it approaches a major test in Congress.

This prompts the following from Yglesias:

There’s just no story here. The Bush administration has almost no positive legacy, and on those areas where good things have happened (NCLB and AIDS funding are the two I can think of) Democrats show every sign of wanting to continue the positive and perhaps make some improvements around the margin.

DeLong goes even further, however:

The policies that were Bush’s weren’t valuable. The policies that were valuable weren’t Bushes–they were either implemented by others or they never got implemented, being for the Bushies at most boob bait for the bubbas who populate the Washington Post editorial board.

Look, let’s stipulate that on many dimensions, the Bush administration has implemented policies that border on catastrophic. On other dimensions, there’s simply been either benign or malign neglect. I’m not claiming here that George W. Bush has done anything close to a great job. On foreign policy, the issue I care about, the only two president who come close to matching Bush’s negatives in the past 50 years are Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson. With all of this so stipulated, DeLong’s statement is simply false. Here are ten policies that team Bush implemented that I would qualify as a) important; b) constructive; c) not simply a continuation of prior policies; and d) not guaranteed to persist in their current form or at current funding levels past 2009:

1) The Millennium Challenge Corporation 2) The Strategic Economic Dialogue with China 3) The Proliferation Security Initiative 4) Our bilateral policy towards India (general warming trend + civilian nuclear deal) 5) Applying the post-Enron brakes on corporate governance regulations (Remember, when it was passed, Sarbanes-Oxley was thought to be milquetoast reform; now it’s though to be too onerous) 6) Appointing Ben Bernanke to replace Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman. 7) The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (I’m being optimistic about Senate passage here). 8) Trying to cut China and India into existing global institutions. 9) Creating the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization in the State Department. 10) Creating the Security and Prosperity Partnership Of North America (I confess that this one’s in here mostly to annoy Lou Dobbs).

None of this outweighs the screw-ups in Iraq or New Orleans. But they are policies that suggest Hiatt has a small point. Reflexively rejecting a Bush policy only because Bush proposed it is as stupid as… as…. rejecting Bill Clinton’s policies because Clinton favored them (which is pretty much what the Bushies did when they took office in 2001). Question to readers: what other Bush policies do you want to see maintained?

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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