Among pressing issues left on the table: What's next in Iraq. How to restore America's reputation around the world. Whether to extend tax cuts that expire in 2010. What to do about Medicare's looming shortfall. And how to complete the job of helping the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Katrina.
No new president gets a clean slate — global politics and the economy don't run in neat four-year cycles — but presidential scholars say the unfinished business Bush will leave for his successor is unprecedented since at least World War II.
"I can't think of a single modern president about to bequeath to his successor such a difficult agenda and such a damaged presidency," says Paul Light of New York University.
I admit that you have to think back a full 6 years, but the man who took office in 2001 had to deal with a global conspiracy to destroy the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and either the Capitol or the White House. It was a plot that had been developing for many years, dating back at least to the attack on US troops in Lebanon under President Reagan. And the two previous tenants of the Oval Office had done little or nothing to address the danger; one of them even forewent the opportunity to take the mastermind of the whole plot into custody.
There was also a need to deal with the coming bankruptcy of entitlement programs -- but that one is getting passed on to the next President, too.
Sounds like George Bush came into office with a lot on his plate, too.