History will recall George Bush's presidency as much for its imperial manner as for its serial blunders. After the trauma of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, Bush claimed extraordinary executive powers as a "wartime" leader, and his White House acted as if it were above the law, veiled in secrecy and unaccountable.
Flouting the Geneva Conventions and inviting the Abu Ghraib scandal, Bush authorized the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to abuse terror suspects. He created a shameful military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, where 770 detainees were denied basic legal rights. That offended even the rightward-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. And he allowed past presidents, vice-presidents and others to veto the release of executive archives that should be in the public domain.
In much of the world's eyes, the United States on Bush's watch came to stand not for freedom and democracy, but for presidential abuse of power, indifference to human rights and due process, and scant regard for accountability. The nation's highest office shrank in stature.