So here's the latest. It seems the president has gotten smarter in the last month. In forty years, sane historians are going to be pulling their hair out trying to sort out the mess the media, blogs, and other opinion makers are making out of the first draft of George W. Bush's presidency.
Here's my guess about the eventual consensus on President Bush: he was an effective, decisive, politically astute leader who did not communicate well but nevertheless connected at some level with most Americans. He was also an excellent manager who chose his assistants well and inspired strong loyalties. Republicans will remember him with more fondness than they feel now, and Democrats will soften on him as he passes on the torch and begins to age. Most of the criticisms of him, especially the stuff about him lying to get us into war, will be long forgotten. He will be in a long line of individuals who we blame for not fixing social security and the health care system, but he won't receive any special criticism for those failures because the economy itself was relatively steady throughout his two terms.
His reputation will hinge on his foreign policy, and in that arena, he will be judged a remarkable success for enacting a moderate and effective foreign policy in response to a grave threat. (Any failures will be met with the question of why he did not use more violence, not less.) Democratic reforms will continue in the Middle East because the United States is on the hook now and there is no hostile nuclear superpower to threaten America away from doing the morally correct thing (like during the Cold War). Since he initiated that policy, he will get the lion's share of the credit, and his presidency will be judged to be in the top ten all-time for effectiveness.