The Cannons, pere et fils, write that in some respects GWB’s domestic legacy rivals (and perhaps even exceeds) RWR’s. Compare, for example, Bush’s Supreme Court appointees to Reagan’s. Reagan gave us Scalia, but also O’Connor and Kennedy. While it’s too soon to tell whether Roberts and Alito will "evolve," they’re surely better than the current versions of the latter two RWR appointees.
While cautioning that presidencies look quite a bit different long after they’re over, the Cannons’ conclusion is harsh:
Bush’s approval rating is now in Carter territory, less than 30 percent of Americans hold a positive view of the Republican Party, and Democratic presidential candidates have overtaken the Republicans in campaign money, votes and crowds. The Republicans’ chances of taking Congress back from the Democrats are slim. So we can indeed reach a short-term political judgment of George W. Bush: He is a disaster -- if not the worst president of all time, then at least the worst since Carter, Hoover or any other recent failure. But who knows how the story will end?
To be sure, they note that Congressional Republicans had a hand in their own political fate and that of their party and that the end of the Cold War complicated the relationship of the GOP to the voters. President Bush is arguably responsible for two causes of the GOP’s slide: Iraq and the closely related perception of administrative incompetence, manifested in other ways as well. But if you consider the execution of the Iraq policy, the two people most closely associated with it are...(drum roll please)...Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, both old Republican hands whose "orthodoxy" is hard to question. Yes, GWB is ultimately responsible (at least in part) for the short-term fate of his party, but the men who urged him on are GOP stalwarts. The current state of the GOP is as much the result of what it did to itself as the result of what Bush did to it.