Historians measure legacies through the lens of history. Voters and activists consider more immediate results. Homeland security and the federal judiciary provide two studies in the successes and failures of President George W. Bush.

On September 11, 2001, terrorists used four commercial airplanes as weapons against New York City and Washington, DC. Two planes hit the World Trade Center, a third hit the Pentagon and the fourth never arrived at its target, the U.S. Capitol, because citizen patriots forced it down in a Pennsylvania field.

Al Qaida took nearly 3,000 lives in America on Sept. 11. On Sept. 12, many of us expected impending attacks. More than seven years later, there has yet to be a significant terrorist attack on American soil. George W. Bush has many legacies; this ranks near the top.

Al Qaida did not give up on Sept. 12. The Bush Administration targeted Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Africa, and the Persian Gulf. U.S. forces deposed the Taliban in Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden fled into hiding without a state to sponsor his nefarious plots. The global disruption of Al Qaeda included operations in the United States.

Al Qaeda or their terrorist affiliates plotted operations against U.S. homeland targets, but American law enforcement and intelligence agencies thwarted them. A backgrounder by James Jay Carafano prepared for the Heritage Foundation last year lists a few of the successes: Jose Padilla's "dirty bomb" plan; the Lackawanna Six, a terrorist cell in Buffalo, New York; a scheme to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge; the Virginia Jihad Network; a plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other financial targets in New York, New Jersey, and Washington DC; a conspiracy to bomb a subway station near Madison Square Garden while hosting the Republican National Convention in 2004; an assassination plan against a Pakistani diplomat in New York City using a shoulder-fired grenade launcher; a plot to attack national guard facilities, synagogues and other sites in Los Angeles; targeted natural gas pipelines and oil refineries; an attempt to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago; a scheme to explode 10 commercial airliners headed to New York, Washington DC and California; a planned attack on Fort Dix in New Jersey; and more that we know about, as well as others undisclosed by the government.

Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, both the Bush administration and Al Qaeda recognized that country as the central battleground in the war on terror. More than 4,200 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, more than 60 with significant Mississippi ties.

American war fatigue accompanied by actual and perceived failures in the Bush Administration's handling of Iraq, combined with economic troubles including skyrocketing gas prices, inclined the electorate against the Republican Party. The 2008 win of the White House by Democrats may also be counted as one of Bush's legacies.

And so, on January 20, 2009, President Barack Obama will be sworn in by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. Roberts, 53, along with Associate Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito, 58, are two of Bush's legacies who will likely serve and shape the Court for decades. Both replaced Republican appointees, but Alito's predecessor, Sandra Day O'Connor, often provided the liberal wing their deciding majority vote.

Bush appointed and the Senate confirmed 61 appeals court justices, fewer than President Bill Clinton's 65. Fifteen current Bush nominees will not be confirmed, those vacancies to be filled by President Obama who will make significant shifts in the judiciary during his tenure.

A report by Pamela MacLean in the National Law Journal suggests Obama's appointments could turn seven of the 13 circuit courts into Democrat majority appointed benches, joining the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which currently has that unique distinction. Mississippi is in the 5th Circuit, which is not expected to shift from its conservative leanings within four years. Congress may create an additional 14 new federal judgeships, which would provide Obama an opportunity to even further shape the judiciary.

On the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens will be nearly 89 at the swearing-in of his fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama. Stevens is two years from being the oldest justice and four years from being the longest serving justice in Supreme Court history. He, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75, and David Souter, 69, all hail from the Court's liberal wing and are most mentioned as possible retirees. Stevens and Ginsberg both have indicated they are not yet ready to retire, and Souter who nearly resigned after the Bush v Gore decision in 2000, has expressed a renewed joy in his work on the Court.

Bush made solid appointments to the federal judiciary to serve lifetime terms that will affect our courts for decades to come. To what extent Obama reduces that legacy will be best studied by historians, not current political observers.

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.