However theologically suspect Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" is (if we all turn up in the afterlife as angels a la Clarence, I'll owe Mr. Capra an apology), the movie provides a wonderful life lesson about overlooking the good things we have and can't see.
I know, according to very accurate modern scientific near infallible surveys, that I am statistically the only person left who thinks President George W. Bush is doing a good job. The media, which are largely stacked against Bush, have bought into this and rebroadcast the narrative that somehow Bush is the worst president ever. You know the old saw: If you repeat a lie enough times...
For George Bailey, it took angelic power to wipe out his existence to show him how wonderful life really was. For America, it's going to take George W. Bush hanging up his hat and heading back to Texas. Many Americans are going to be surprised how much they miss the old cowboy. No matter if Barack Obama or John McCain sits in the Oval Office next year, history will tell us the Bush administration really was a wonderful presidency.
Barack Obama, already selling out for votes (switching on oil drilling, privacy, his bad Iraq policy ), doesn't have the conviction that W. has shown during his presidency. Bush stood by what he believed was the seminal task of his presidency: defending the American people from terrorists. Now, it's true that before the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush had a much more conservative foreign policy. But Sept. 11 changed President Bush, who took the costly lessons to heart: We were not vigilant enough, and we needed to take the fight to our enemies instead of waiting for them to take the fight to us. In some ways Sept. 11 changed us all.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Bush's more aggressive tone was very popular, with the president's polling numbers running astronomically high. But the American public and media are fickle and have short memories. By 2006, when the war in Iraq - at that time clearly against al-Qaida and its allies - looked like it was on the verge of failure, Bush stood by his convictions that his job was to protect the American people, and a stable, democratic Iraq was important to the protection of America. Doubling down and staying the course was very, very unpopular. But Bush (and, ironically, John McCain ) knew that this was the right thing to do - conviction - in spite of the political cost at home. Bush lost his majorities in Congress and faced new all-time approval lows.
Now that Iraq is stabilized (with the lowest rate of U. S. and Iraqi deaths since the whole enterprise started in 2003 ) we see the surge strategy has worked. If Barack Obama had been president in 2006, Iraq would be a bloodbath today.
Neither Obama nor McCain have half the integrity that W. exercised during his stay at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Bush was to America exactly what he promised he would be - a pro-life, compassionate conservative. Whoever wins between Obama or McCain, we are going to have to some degree a panderer, because both men love media attention and getting kudos in print and on the airwaves.
Bush didn't give a damn what the media thought about him as long as he felt he was doing the right thing. He probably filtered his consumption of the news media through his aides to make sure he didn't start becoming affected by their attitude. This ticked off the media - how dare Bush not follow them and listen to their collective wisdom. And the media punished Bush for his lack of kissing their collective butts with the most biased, paranoid conspiracy theorist coverage of any president since Richard Nixon, who incidentally was actually involved in a conspiracy, unlike Bush.
Bush is not an egomaniac, nor a power monger, paranoid, nor a corrupt official lining his own pockets by taking advantage of his office. When he's done being president, he's not going to try to become a world leader, or try to relive his glory days looking for personal significance (I'm looking at you, Jimmy Carter ). I bet he isn't even going to write a multi-million dollar book. Instead, he will gracefully fade away and let the next guy have his turn, because that's the sort of good guy Bush is.
I think, eight years later, Bush has proven that he just wanted to make America a better place. We can argue about whether he succeeded (and I know I am in the minority ), but I challenge anyone to find proof of ill motive in our president.
You want to know what we'll miss most about Bush ? That he always thought of himself as a regular guy, no better than the people who he was leading. One story that exemplified this: Last month Bush's motorcade was headed to an airport in Ohio, when he passed a sign in front a house that caught his eye. The sign, according to news reports, read: "Mr. President, please stop to take a 91st B-Day picture with Ma."
Bush stopped his motorcade, the Secret Service and the traveling press and made them wait while he sat on the lawn with the 91-year-old Ruth Harris. "You look great," Bush said. "Where's the birthday cake?"
When you really take a good look, it really was a wonderful presidency. Not perfect, but not so bad. There have been no more attacks since Sept. 11, 2001. Homelessness is down. Iraq is becoming a democracy. Uncle Sam is bringing in more money than ever before, even though the tax rate is lower. (Too bad we are spending record amounts, as well.) In spite of the bursting of the tech bubble, Hurricane Katrina, Sept. 11 and even the housing bubble, the Bush administration has added jobs to the economy and the unemployment rate has stayed under 6 percent. The economy has flown higher, but never been as resilient.
But most of all, Bush's humility, integrity and conviction are what I am going to miss most next year. He has those in spades over Obama and McCain.
And unlike George Bailey getting his life back, we won't ever have the Bush administration again. The best thing about that is the Bush haters will have nothing to whine about.