William McGurn writes in today's Journal:
In a few hours, George W. Bush will walk out of the Oval Office for the last time as president. As he leaves, he carries with him the near-universal opprobrium of the permanent class that inhabits our nation's capital. Yet perhaps the most important reason for this unpopularity is the one least commented on.
Here's a hint: It's not because of his failures. To the contrary, Mr. Bush's disfavor in Washington owes more to his greatest success. Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable.
As McGurn notes, both Obama and Biden opposed the surge on the grounds that it would only make the situation worse, and both subscribed to the view widely held among the press and the Democratic leadership that the war was lost -- that the only thing to do was to retreat, even at the cost of genocide in Iraq. We now know that Bush was right, the surge has succeeded, and even liberals like Peter Beinart are demanding that their fellow Democrats admit their mistake.
The result is that Obama has inherited victory in Iraq. Bush has done more than, as McGurn quotes Biden in early 2007, "keep it from totally collapsing...[until he could] hand it off to the next guy." Now rather than retreat in defeat, our new president must manage to withdraw American troops without undermining their success. It will be a tremendous challenge, but the press will not be able to blame Bush if security deteriorates in Iraq after Obama gives the Joint Chiefs their "new mission." The victory in Iraq is Obama's to lose.