Fred Hiatt concedes that George W. Bush is a bad president but manages to lavish undeserved praise on him anyway:

But valuable strands of policy also may end up strewn in the wreckage, victims (in varying combinations) of President Bush's ineptitude, inconstancy and unpopularity. Among these are what Bush called compassionate conservatism, now moribund; American promotion of democracy abroad, now flailing; and accountability in elementary and high school education, losing ground as it approaches a major test in Congress.

The editorial goes on to note, correctly, that compassionate conservatism never actually existed since it "was an early casualty of Bush's fiscal policy, which tilted the tax code toward the wealthy at a time of rising inequality, forced the government to devote increasing sums to pay interest on the national debt and ensured that less and less would be available for social programs for the vulnerable." The editorial also notes that Bush has not, in fact, promoted democracy and his alleged agenda on this score "has had little success: Iraq and Afghanistan remain at war, tentative gains for democracy in the Mideast have been reversed, and autocracies in the former Soviet Union, China, Iran and elsewhere are emboldened." On education, meanwhile, the main legislative forces behind No Child Left Behind -- Ted Kennedy and George Miller -- are chairing the relevant House and Senate committees and none of the Democratic presidential candidates favor ending the school accountability provisions whose continuation Hiatt is worried about it.

There's just no story here. The Bush administration has almost no positive legacy, and on those areas where good things have happened (NCLB and AIDS funding are the two I can think of) Democrats show every sign of wanting to continue the positive and perhaps make some improvements around the margin. It's an inconvenient reality since I, too, would rather demonstrate independent thinking and cleverness by identifying some hidden downside to Bush not being president, but there's nothing there.

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