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W's legacy not certain
Lasting view of war, economy may change
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Forsyth County News

The legacy of the George W. Bush presidency, which is nearing the end of its eight-year run Tuesday, is far from certain.

While he remains popular in heavily Republican Forsyth County and Georgia, which GOP hopeful John McCain carried in November, Bush has a low national approval rating.

Several area residents who follow politics say it likely will take time for the administration's impact to register.

To Carl Cavalli, associate political science professor at North Georgia College & State University, the war in Iraq has and will define the Bush presidency "for better or for worse."

"Right now, more people do disagree with what's been done there than agree, but that can change in the long run," Cavalli said. "Right now his legacy is certainly not a positive one, but if we do see long-term benefits in Iraq, then that could change.

"But barring any changes to the current situation, his legacy is not a good one."

Andrew Miller, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, said protecting the country will be Bush's legacy.

"I think he's going to be remembered the most because of what didn't happen," Miller said. "We did not have another terrorist attack on American soil after 9/11 when all the intelligence agencies were saying it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when the next attack will happen."

Marie Anderson said along with the current state of the economy, the president's response to Katrina could haunt him in the future.

"I really think Katrina is going to be one of the biggest [memories] for his failure to respond in a timely manner," said Anderson, chairwoman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party.

Cavalli said the president's approval rating has not cracked 50 percent since early in his second term. It dipped as low as the 20 percent range before settling in the low 30 percent range, where it remains.

"That's pretty much unprecedented," he said.

Bush's downfall was the result of a series of events in 2005, Cavalli said. Through 2004, the president may have been controversial, but still had a number of supporters.

"First was his Social Security initiative, the attempt to privatize Social Security, which turned out to be extremely unpopular," he said.

"Another was his attempt to nominate his legal council, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court, which did not go very well as she did not come across as deserving the position and it made the administration look incompetent as they had to check her out."

But the final straw, Cavalli said, was Bush's delayed response to Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005.

The powerful hurricane devastated areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, killing more than 1,300 residents and submerging nearly 200,000 homes.

Miller said those who focus solely on the economy and soaring deficit may continue to view the president's performance as poor. For those who share Bush's priority of national security, however, he'll be remembered for his dedication to staying the course.

"I think when the recession ends and the economy comes back, people will think about this in a historical perspective," Miller said. "Because quite honestly, if we had another terrorist attack on our country, then no one would be talking about the economy right now."

Over time, opponents of the president likely will become less critical, said Anderson, pointing to Richard Nixon.

The 37th president, who famously resigned less than halfway through his second term, was facing impeachment for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

"It seems like now we're getting past his indiscretions and looking at some of the good things that he did," she said of Nixon. "I don't know that things will be completely forgiven, but I do think that we as a nation tend to want to forgive and forget.

"Maybe our harsh criticisms of Bush will mellow in the future. But I think it's going to take some time."