Any list of errors is unflattering, but President George W Bush’s catalogue of mistakes is particularly impressive. Some may argue that some entries here, such as not signing Kyoto, belong in a best moments list. Others even the president has admitted were cock-ups.
1) No WMDs
Mr Bush built his entire case for war on the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. However, he chose to ignore conflicting evidence and forever undermined not only his presidency, but the reputation of US intelligence agencies and his country in much of the world.
2) “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”
Mr Bush could not control the weather, but he had control in naming the director of FEMA, the agency in charge of disaster mitigation. His appointee, Mike Brown, was woefully underprepared and failed to facilitate proper aid to the stranded victims of Hurricane Katrina. Despite his tragic miscues, Mr Bush famously told his pall “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”
3) No Post-War Plan for Iraq
The outgoing president achieved his goal of ousting Saddam Hussein but had little planned for a destabilised post-Saddam Iraq. After six years, thousands of military casualties, an untold amount of Iraqi civilian deaths, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, the war is still not over.
4) Permitting Torture
By stating that the Geneva Convention did not apply to “enemy combatants,” Mr Bush paved the way for waterboarding, attack dogs, and other draconian interrogation tactics that will forever be associated with his presidency.
5) Ignoring Pre-9/11 Terror Memo
Just weeks before 9/11, while spending a holiday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr Bush received a memo from the CIA entitled, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US”. While the President cannot respond to every single threat presented to the country, the timing and nature of this particular warning will forever blight his legacy.
6) “Mission Accomplished”
Mr Bush’s bombastic declaration of victory in Iraq while aboard an aircraft carrier in May 2003 was premature to say the least: the vast majority of war casualties have occurred since the unfurling of the “mission accomplished” banner. He has admitted this was one of his biggest mistakes.
7) Entering Iraq without a UN mandate.
After months of deliberation, the UN Security Council could not come to an agreement over the proposed invasion of Iraq. Mr Bush impatiently led a “coalition of the willing” into the country and his decision is still considered by the UN to be illegal.
8) Insisting there was a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
Mr Bush aimed to strengthen his case for war by linking the perpetrators of 9/11 to Saddam Hussein. As of today there is little to no evidence supporting his claim.
9) Failing to capture Osama bin Laden
After 9/11, Mr Bush’s primary goal was to capture al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. More than seven years have passed and the only evidence of Bin Laden is a series of grainy video tapes taunting Mr Bush and the United States.
10) Abandoning the Kyoto Protocol
In 2001, Mr Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that requires participating countries to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. He cited its effect on the economy, but the auto industry is already on the brink and global climate change is a real problem. Even merely as a sign of intent, his signature would have been helpful.
11) Refusing to let Katrina ruin his holiday
Hurricane Katrina hit towards the end of a long summer holiday for Mr Bush. His immediate response was not to view the damage personally, but at five miles high through the window of Air Force One on his way back to Washington.
12) Underestimating the cost of the war
Like a contractor’s ever-inflating estimates of a home renovation, Mr Bush’s original $50-$60 billion price tag on the Iraq war sounds like a steal now. The current cost is closer to $600 billion.
13) Lack of body armour for US troops
Due to the budget constraints of an expensive war, many US troops lacked proper armour for the challenges in Iraq. There have been reports of families turning to eBay to purchase protective gear for their sons and daughters stationed in the Middle East.
14) Failure to include Louisiana’s coastal parishes in state of emergency plan
On August 27, 2005, two days before Hurricane Katrina hit, President Bush declared a state of emergency for parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Not included on that list were the coastal areas of Louisiana that included New Orleans, the city hit hardest by Katrina.
15) Tax cuts for the wealthy
Believing wealthy Americans would take their fortunes to tax shelters, Mr Bush granted large tax cuts to keep their cash in the US. Critics contend it disproved the trickle down theory, as the economy headed into recession.
16) Losing focus on Afghanistan
The early campaign in Afghanistan was relatively successful. Rather than continuing the effort there however, Mr Bush quickly switched focus to Iraq. Many, including President-Elect Barack Obama, believe that a greater presence in Afghanistan would be more effective in the war on terror.
17) Limiting stem cell research
One of President Bush’s earliest decisions was to restrict the research of embryonic stem cells. These types of studies have shown tremendous results in lab rats (such as reversing the course of Parkinson’s in the rodents). Humans will have to wait for his policy to be annulled before seeing any benefits.
18) Appointment and backing of Alberto Gonzales
Mr Bush appointed an old Texan friend Alberto Gonzales as his Attorney General after the resignation of John Ashcroft. Widely criticised as a sycophantic foil to “Dubya”, Mr Gonzales oversaw questionable US attorney dismissals and the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping before eventually resigning. Along with Mike Brown, Alberto Gonzales is an example of Mr Bush’s perceived penchant for surrounding himself with “yes men” rather than qualified individuals.
19) Awarding lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts to Halliburton
Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s old employer, received a large reconstruction contract in Iraq shortly after the onset of the war. Rumours of it not having to bid are unfounded, but claims of a conflict of interest remain. In addition, their exportation of the country’s oil has been a largely unsuccessful endeavour.
20) Warrantless Wiretapping
Shortly after 9/11, President Bush authorised the warrantless wiretapping of certain telephone calls for the sake of national security. Eavesdropping would often top most Presidents’ list of reprehensible acts but Mr Bush, supported by Congress, contended that it helped keep America safe.