How George Bush Salvaged His Dad’s Legacy

The current President, in the course of launching the ongoing war in Iraq, thumbed his nose at France, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and countless other onetime allies, and plunged America into an unprecedented exercise in nation-building, the costs of which are recalculated upward on a daily basis.

But the contrast between the ways in which the two Bush administrations approached the rest of the world goes far beyond how they dealt with Iraq.

The first Bush Presidency also coincided with the breathtaking democratic revolution in Eastern Europe. In 1989, months after Mr. Bush was inaugurated, citizens in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania and East Germany all moved—in some cases violently—to wrest control from their Soviet occupiers. A year later, the Baltic states followed suit—and when Boris Yeltsin climbed onto a tank to stare down a hard-line coup in August 1991, the Soviet Union itself disintegrated.

In facing these changes, Bush 41 demonstrated remarkable diplomatic savvy. When the Berlin Wall fell in ’89, for example, he convinced Mikhail Gorbachev not to contest the reunification of Germany—a humiliating moment for the proud Soviets. And without fraying America’s friendship with either country, he prodded Britain and France—both supremely leery of a united Germany—to go along.

It’s hard to imagine the current President doing the same.

During the 2004 Presidential election, Lincoln Chafee, the only Republican Senator to oppose George W. Bush’s Iraq War from the beginning, announced that he planned to write in the name of the father rather than vote for the son.

History will likely agree with Mr. Chafee: Only one Bush was worthy of the White House, and it’s not the one who’s in there now.