Columnist Frank Devine from The Australian poses a rather sobering question: Was George W. Bush's election God's way of saving us from Al Gore? And on a similar note "what if" Senator John Kerry, "embroiderer of his own combat experiences in Vietnam, would have handled the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Ye indeed, history will smile on G.W.Bush!
This proposition may not enjoy wide acceptance but I am indebted to Fred Barnes, of Washington's The Weekly Standard, for reminding me that one of Bush's major achievements was his steadfast resistance to the clamour of global warmists. By refusing to be a party to the futile Kyoto Protocol, and declaring cautious scepticism about predictions of the planet's becoming too hot to handle - keeping to his position even after the warmists retreated to more general predictions of human-caused "global climate change" - Bush warded off a pernicious power grab by environmental zealots. In doing so, he attracted his first waveof hatred.
Imagine what would have happened if a president Gore had been in charge. First, the grand symbolism of signing Kyoto. Then the voice of the world's most powerful nation added to assertions that we were at the brink of the precipice and must take instant action to dismantle our economic, industrial and social systems, or go over.
Then might have followed the surrender of authority by elected governments to the UN and the more ad hoc NGOs. On a similar "what if?" line, one wonders how Senator John Kerry, embroiderer of his own combat experiences in Vietnam, would have handled the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Consideration of the two alternatives to Bush as president emphasises the way that the ornate and deeply probing processes of American presidential campaigns almost invariably end with the voters choosing the better of the two eventual candidates. It has happened again this time, with Barack Obama showing a steadier hand than John McCain, who was tempted into empty grandstanding when the financial crisis struck.
American voters also take responsibility for the individuals on whom they bestow the enormous burdens of the presidency. Respect for their achievements and understanding of their weaknesses eventually develop, even of profoundly unpopular presidents.
Frank Langhella's sympathetic, tour de force performance as Richard Nixon in Frost-Nixon is an indication of this.
Bush, amiable and graceful of style, will have a lighter task in regaining the American public's esteem, after exiting with low, low standing in opinion polls.
In addition to the hate-mongering of climate-change warriors, Bush's record has been distorted by The New York Times's campaign against him: the most vicious, relentless and shallow assault on a president I have observed in many years of acquaintance with American journalism.
But the Times is suffering a backlash for its excesses in the form of diminished circulation, earnings and reputation. The little Sir Echoes it recruited, at home and abroad (including here), would be wise to begin looking for wriggle room.
Bush's response to the historically unprecedented shock of air raids on the mainland US will undoubtedly be the fulcrum for assessment of his presidency. (There is too little certainty about when the seeds of the financial collapse were planted, and no way of predicting the weight of America's contribution to recovery, for this to be the main factor.)
Bush's twin attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were courageous and logical. His administration's greatest fear after September11 was further attacks with weapons more deadly than exploding aviation fuel. It took immediate diplomatic action to quarantine Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
There is no doubt Bush, and all other Western governments, believed Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, prompted in part by Saddam's desire to let this be thought. Iraq was, as well, an inviting suspect, militarily weak, most overtly bloodthirsty of Middle Eastern dictatorships and strategically well located.
Bush's early stumbles over Iraq were due, I believe, to his inclination to emulate the presidential style of Ronald Reagan, chairman of the board rather than director of operations, taking for granted that his decisions would be acted upon. A certain useful coldness of character made this work for Reagan. He did not hesitate to squeeze out non-performers and showed little interest in associates after they had left his service.
Warmer of personality, Bush persisted with a defence secretary and elements of the military high command whose grand strategy was to create a highly mobile force, operating an in-crunch-out strategy. They had little sympathy for the president's regime change and democracy-building ambitions.
Finally, Bush opened private channels of access to information about what was happening in Iraq. The result was a change of generals and the astounding decision to create an aggressive surge against America's almost triumphant enemies.
History takes more note of the outcome of military conflict than of the processes.
The American commentator Charles Krauthammer sees an Iraq "turned from aggressive hostile power in the heart of the Middle East to an emerging democracy openly allied with the United States".
We should pray Bush's successor is comparably successful in handling the challenges that will confront him.