I spent ten minutes this morning watching President Bush's farewell speech. It only took me a few of those to realize that the majority of the accomplishments (or "accomplishments" to those of you who can't avoid sarcasm when talking about the President) Bush listed are in fact what history will remember him by.
Changes enacted by the Bush administration that many of us overlook—the new Department of Homeland Security, to name one—are in fact institutions and government policies that will continue in the Obama administration and for decades to come. Rather than disregarding the Bush years as a dark period into which Obama will restore order and harmony through a thorough cleaning, we should remove Bush himself from the picture and consider the changes over the past eight years at face value.
Conceived by the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, the Department of Homeland Security was seen as a safeguard against further, future intelligence failures. The agency that was once an embarrassment to the Bush administration now serves as a great opportunity for future improvement of our defense and intelligence agencies.
On a less tangible level, Bush has also written his long-term policy legacy. Now clearly visible are Bush personal convictions with regards to the war on terror, America's role in spreading democracy around the globe, AIDS relief, and the importance of faith-based charities. Ten, twenty, or fifty years from now those attitudes will place alongside Eisenhower's warning against the "military-industrial complex" and other major philosophical/political precedents.
Bush's speech may have afforded leftist pundits like Arianna Huffington a great and final opportunity to hold failures above the President's head, but it was Bush who revealed the most about his legacy last night.