In her time as prime minister of England, Margaret Thatcher demonstrated some of the greatest fortitude seen in a world leader since World War II. Her economic policies and stances in foreign affairs were unnerving to many, yet her adherence to principle remains a model to leaders everywhere. She understood the importance of maintaining Britain’s sovereignty within the emergence of the European Union. She was also able to convey to President Ronald Reagan that Mikhail Gorbachev was in fact human.
This past week, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown sat down with Thatcher for tea. The two come from opposite political parties; however, Brown refers to her as a “conviction politician” and says he shares that same principle.
As the 2008 presidential race unfolds, candidates on both sides are doing their best to convince the American public that they are not George W. Bush. Democratic contenders are in a race to see who has voted the fewest times on any legislation that Bush signed. Republican candidates try to highlight their differences more subtly. This is completely warranted. Bush’s approval ratings are atrocious, and candidates want to identify with a dissatisfied electorate. However, candidates ought to be careful not to take their Bush bashing too far.
The war in Iraq has left major problems for the next president. It has not been the cakewalk that it was built up to be, and the problems there were largely ignored for some time. However, Bush’s experience and advice may still prove valuable for the next president, if that person is willing to listen.
Consider for a brief moment how Bush’s presidency has unfolded. At his inauguration, he faced the hostility of a nation divided, not wanting to accept his presidency. Immediately, his administration began working on a bipartisan approach to education – an issue that had been taboo for Republicans. Ted Kennedy, a favorite target of the GOP, stood behind Bush as he signed the No Child Left Behind Act.
Bush also faced the largest attack on American civilians ever to occur. He took the problem to the world stage. Countries across the globe had the chance to come together and denounce the killing of innocent civilians. In truth, this was an incredible opportunity for the world to advance with a common goal.
There have clearly been flaws in the Bush administration. The stubbornness of an administration that refuses accept problems at their conception has proven extremely costly. However, the Bush years have certainly built up a wealth of experience, if nothing else. Sitting down with Bush will not seem astute in the eyes of voters. However, to understand the Bush presidency better would only help the next resident – Democrat or Republican.
In endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, Sen. Debbie Stabenow said, “[Clinton] has the ability, experience, knowledge and understanding that, from day one, we need to make changes.” No matter which former president a candidate happens to be married to, have worked for or have happened to meet when they were young, no one is going to be ready on day one. The gravity of the decisions a president faces is not seen in other jobs. Thus, no matter how badly a candidate views the Bush presidency, it can still help to understand it.
Ryan Bendinelli is a senior political science major from Millington, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]