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by Special to    Sun, Jan 1, 2006, 12:00 AM

George W Bush.jpgGeroge W. Bush. He's the guy: your man of the year whether you like, merely tolerate, or -- as is often the case -- deplore and despise him. Because who, other than our president, sat closer to the malestrom of events in 2005? Iraq, Cindy What's-Her-Name, Katrina, the Social Security debacle, Supreme Court nominations, taxes, deficit spending -- if you looked, there was Bush: not always covering himself with glory, more than occasionally stumbling but not really messing up, save in his failure to fight federal spending and in his cave-in to John McCain on the "torture" measure.

To my own way of thinking, Bush's achievement, in a rather bad year, especially in PR terms, consisted in his sheer endurance. Which is naturally what the media hated him for. The media wanted him to put on sack cloth and ashes and announce his newly discovered consonance with the philosophical positions of Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd. Of course had he done so, the media then would have skewered him for intellectual inconsistency if not political treason.

The media, my longtime profession, was absolutely, grotesquely awful in 2005: these various decaying specimens of the '60s and '70s looking up from their yogurt and fava beans just long enough to aim another kick at a Texas cowboy. Were Bush as bad as his press notices, we'd probably have to impeach him, then hang him from the nearest live oak in Crawford. Fortunately that won't be necessary.

What was overlooked this year, amid the monotonous drone from the Eastern seaboard, was that Bush

1. Stayed steady in pursuit of an Iraqi settlement advantageous both to Americans and Iraqis;

2. Named John Roberts chief justice;

3. Nominated Samuel Alito to succeed Sandra O'Connor;

4. Tapped Ben Bernanke for the Fed;

5. Spoke Truth to Irresponsibility as he sought Social Security reform;

6. Hung in with John Bolton for U.N. ambassador;

7. Presssed hard, if not artfully, for tax cut extensions;

8. Brought a useful (i.e., centrist) immigration reform proposal to the table;

9. Kept his cool;

10. Didn't whine.

Not half-bad, given the obstacles to such a performance.

I think and hope I am not widely celebrated as a Bush (or Karl Rove) apologist. Nevertheless, I think we owe the guy a little more appreciation has been his lot during a year we almost can't help but improve on.

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