Today all five living past and present Presidents will be in Dallas to dedicate the President George W. Bush Library on the campus of SMU. As a native Texan, please allow me to give you my impression of our (semi-) native son "Dubya".
We all know the early story....he grew up in west Texas in a family with money and prestige. He partied hard like
He wasn't supposed to win but he did, beating HRH Ann Richards. She took him too lightly and it cost her. Dubya was actually a very good governor. Reasonable, responsible, able to work with both parties in the legislature. So well in fact that the Democratic Lt. Governor at the time endorsed him for re-election.
He might have come across as a tongue-tied doofus compared to the urbane veteran politicians in Washington, but that wasn't him at all. (Just ask Ann Richards.*) Ex: His grades at Yale were better than those of John Kerry.
He was a natural to fill the vacuum in the Republican Party leadership. There was a lot of Republican money itching to take back the White House, he had his daddy's Rolodex, and probably a bit of a swollen head after his success in Austin.
In the strangest election in our history he won, and IMO was immediately steamrolled by the Washington political establishment. Those guys eat little west Texas boys for breakfast. He fell under the influence of long-time political heavyweights like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, which I think really came back to bite him hard later.
Cheney, the ultimate insider, especially seemed to have his ear. He seemed to have the knack of wanting something, and then making Dubya think it was his idea. I trust Cheney about as far as I can spit into a hurricane. (I still don't think Dubya "gets" Cheney's influence on him.)
Then, BAM! 9/11. Dubya did what most red-blooded Texas boys would do when they get sucker-punched....he got out his can of whup-ass.
Again IMO, 9/11 would have happened regardless of who was in the Oval Office. Islamic terrorists had been jabbing us since the Carter administration. Dubya just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Regarding Iraq: Saddam Hussein laid out too convincing a lie and it cost him. He wanted the world to believe he had WMD's in order to make him seem stronger than he really was. Our CIA bought it (led, don't forget, by a Clinton holdover), as did Britain's MI-6, Israel's Mossad, the French, the Germans, and probably many others, too. Even Colin Powell bought it. Nothing definitive was ever found, but there were enough shreads of evidence to seemingly corroborate Saddam's tale. I really DON'T think Dubya lied to us deliberately.
The beginning of the end for Dubya was when the US got into Iraq and proved Colin Powell correct. Remember Powell's advice? "If we break it, we buy it." We broke it, and we couldn't afford to buy it. Paying for that war was where our financial wheels fell off. There was more than that, of course, but paying for the war in Iraq financially devastated us.
Regarding the financial meltdown of '08: Again, Cheney & Co. were in the back pocket of the financial interests. They got the green light they wanted. The rest of us got (and are still getting) the bill.
Regarding his Grand Plan for the Middle East: Too many lightweights, probably academics (Condi?), convinced Dubya that if we could just set up a democratic Iraq that would mirror our free society, the other people of the region would want the same and fall in line, too. Kum Ba Ya, y'all.
That might have sounded good on somebody's PhD dissertation, but it didn't mean shit to the average guy on the average street in the average Middle Eastern country. Again, IMO Dubya really thought this made sense. He has a "western" thought process, while they will always have an "eastern" thought process. They are very different. It was just very naive thinking on his part.
In short, I really do think George W. Bush was/is a good man. He meant well, truly wanted to do good things that would benefit us and the world at large. His spirituality is genuine. He was just out of his league, coaxed along by advisers he shouldn't have listened to into doing things that we'll be regreting for a long time to come. Once you find yourself at the bottom of a deep hole as Dubya did, your options are few and not very good.
Washington is a wicked place. It devoured George W. Bush, and unfortunately he probably won't be the last. This isn't meant to excuse Dubya's political failures. For eight years the buck rightfully stopped with him.
Pity how things turned out. A lot of us had high hopes for him.
*Actually you can't ask her. She's dead.