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Weighing the term

What, then, are the fair expectations? How do I judge the next four years?

Things I do not expect of Bush:

  • Peace in Iraq. Not because I think he’s incapable of it, but because I think it’s an incredibly difficult problem. I wouldn’t have expected Kerry to make Iraq work either.

Things I am willing to judge him on:

  • North Korea. He needs to make progress. I define that as North Korea reducing the number of nuclear weapons on hand without actually using them. He said he could do this with his approach, and he needs to follow through.
  • Iran. See above. If Iran gets nukes in the next four years, I’ll count that against Bush.
  • High school graduation rates. They need to be better, over the next four years, than they were during — let’s be fair, let’s say Clinton’s second term.
  • Homes. 7 million new, occupied homes within the next four years. It’s part of his platform.
  • No new draft.
  • Reduction in terrorism. More US citizens died in terrorist attacks in 2003 than died in 2004. On the other hand, fewer people overall died in terrorist attacks in 2003 than in 2002. I’m gonna use two numbers as the benchmark, as reported by the State Department — overall deaths and overall number of people wounded. US military personnel will be filtered out.
  • Deficit halved by 2008. Again, it’s part of his platform.
  • Robot probes on the Moon by 2008. This is kinda cheaty of me, but hell, he promised and I’d like to see it.
  • A national election in Iraq in January 2004 with 60%+ turnout and 90%+ of the country able to vote.

Things I’m deliberately leaving out:

  • Jobs. I don’t know how to measure them; I haven’t done the research necessary for me to feel comfortable picking one stat or the other.
  • Reduce the number of abortions performed in this country. This isn’t there for two reasons: a) the CDC is not publishing statistics on this, and b) I don’t think it’s a relevant metric for measuring the health of the country.

What am I missing? I’m trying to keep it to things he’s said he could do and things that are reasonable to expect. And are any of these unfair?


11/07/2004: North Korea can’t reduce the number of weapons by using them; Mars mission refined to reflect his actual promise; US military personnel filtered out of the casualty stats (since long-term success may require short-term sacrifice); added a list of things I’m leaving out on purpose; added election in Iraq in January.


  1. Not sure that the high school graduation rate is a good metric. Many of my son’s friends would be happy with a vocational certificate – but graduation from High school is college prep. Shouldn’t oughta be, but is.

    And on all these, so many of the factors are outside any one individual’s control. In my opinion the most likely way to make progress in N. Korea is for the Glorious Leader to die. Short of that, I don’t think that there will be much progress. The only options which will persuade the N. Korean Politburo are unpalatable to the rest of the world. (I admit I’m not an expert on N. Korea, but from what reading I’ve done, they can only be described as a neurotic or psychotic organization.)

    But despite quibbling about details, I approve of the intent of the scorecard

  2. I probably agree with you on North Korea, but since both candidates promised to make that situation better, I’m inclined to hold the winner to it. I would have said the same if Kerry had won.

    How has Bush defined the success of NCLB?

  3. t. rev t. rev

    I have this peculiar affection for the North Korean regime. They’re murderous psychotic tyrants who have created a hell on earth, but they’re also pathetic geeks. At Psychotic Tyrant elementary school, Kim Jong-Il would be the kid with the coke-bottle glasses who never showered.

  4. I think those are fair expectations.

    In my view, Iraq will be a success if it doesn’t devolve into an Islamic Republic. Whatever kind of representative government takes hold it doesn’t need to resemble New Hampshire, just be better than Saddam’s Iraq. If Bush allows Iran to build a nuclear weapon then I will consider his second term foreign policy a failure on par with Jimmy Carter’s.

    As for terrorism deaths, doesn’t the State Department count casualties among US service men and women who are taking the fight to the terrorists? Since it’s a war, those should be counted separately for this measure. After all, the point of taking military action is to reduce attacks on US civilians in the long-term as well as short-term.

    I’d also like to see a manned mission to Mars, but wasn’t the timetable for doing it something like 2016?

    Last thing, I would love to see Posner appointed to the USSC.

  5. You’re right, Lawrence — Mars was something like 2020. The closest specific date he’s got is 2008 for robotic exploration of the Moon. I’ll modify the post to make that the benchmark.

    State does count service casualities in that report. Hm. Yeah, I’ll buy that I should separate those out. Again, will edit to reflect this.

    I think you’ve got a good standard there for Iraq, but being a pessimist, I’m still not sure there’s anything to be done about it — so I still won’t hold Bush to that.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  6. Bruce Baugh Bruce Baugh

    One possible metric for Iraq would be if the average reasonably verifiable deaths per year from “the end of major hostilities” through to next primary season is less than that for the same stretch of time preceding the invasion. (I’m willing to grant the war period itself as exempt, even though I think Bush has moral responsibility for that as well.) Go for conservative, careful-with-their-documentation sources for each side.

  7. I heard on NPR that the DOD reports “number of troops wounded in combat” but doesn’t necessarily report “number of troops wounded while deployed in Iraq”. The number was something like 1700 “wounded in combat” with the DOD quick to follow that with “roughly half those were minor injuries and the person was sent back to his post”. But the radio report also measured “number of troops wounded seriously enough to be airlifted back to US or Europe” as over 21,000 of which a small fraction were wounded in combat operations. Interesting.

  8. That’s true, Greg. The casualty figures are far higher than one might think from a casual glance.

    Bruce: Iraqi deaths, I assume?

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