The Right Way to Measure Presidential Success

Even for those who despise President Bush, the last four years of robust and vibrant prosperity (and, yes, of sharply rising incomes) ought to get him off the hook when it comes to the "failure" category. Moreover, since 9/11 struck the nation less than eight months after his inauguration, the president's aggressive (and wildly polarizing) leadership on the War on Terror confounded most expectations by preventing or avoiding another attack on American soil.

With low unemployment, low inflation, lowered taxes and (in the last three years) a sharply declining deficit, the Bush bashers face the same challenge as Hayes or Arthur or Harrison or McKinley bashers: How can you claim the president did so poorly when the nation did so well during the years he held office? Even if you count the Iraq War as an unmitigated disaster, its failure to embitter daily life or block economic progress for most Americans should help place the conflict in a better historical context.

Of course, crediting the commander in chief for every positive development in the country makes no more sense than it does to blame him for every disaster or setback experienced under his watch.

Nevertheless, when the American people express such overwhelming satisfaction and optimism (in all major surveys) about their personal lives -- including jobs, families, neighborhoods -- it makes little sense to view the rest of the country (and the president's performance) with such relentless negativity.

Though our current growth and good fortune may well fall short of the epic successes of "The Confident Years," we should recall on this Presidents Day that Mr. Bush, like his bearded and oft-slighted "Confident Years" predecessors, deserves some recognition for the burgeoning blessings of the nation he leads.

Michael Medved, best-selling author of "Right Turns" and "The Shadow Presidents," hosts a syndicated daily radio talk show focusing on the intersection of politics and pop culture. He blogs at

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