I remember Hillary's plan ending differently than that. Her plan was proposed in '93. The Republicans were overwhelmingly voted into majority of both houses partly as a result of the fear of that plan. Republican control effectively killed any chance that plan ever had. Hillary was quoted to say "You may remember that we tried to do that [pass her health care bill] in 1993 and 1994. We weren't totally successful, but I did not give up." (February 22, 2000)
So she really didn't "pull it off the table" as you suggest. The American public rejected it. She still wants it.
As for the war... Liberals consistently forget that their own leaders are on record (Kerry included) as saying we need to disarm Iraq. You can argue about how the war has been handled, but there was bipartisan support for it. Congress is required to financially support wars and they have. It is intellectually dishonest to claim that Bush alone went to war in Iraq. The UK, Australia, and Japan are well-represented there today as well.
I'm not Bush's personal apologist, either. I don't think we needed to spend money to create a whole new department of homeland security. We should have fixed the CIA and FBI and allowed them to communicate more effectively. Unfortunately, having worked for a defense contractor, I have seen first-hand how various government departments often play the empire-building game. There are several other things I think he gets wrong, too. Border security is one. That being said, I support this war for two reasons: 1) I believe we are safer from terrorists as a result (they are stuck fighting the war over there, and they see that we actually have the resolve to defend ourselves and deal with them). 2) There is a lot of un-reported good happening in Iraq. Schools, hospitals, and a whole lot of infrastructure is being rebuilt. Mass graves are no longer being created and filled with the bodies of dissidents (sp?) I don't see the desire to free millions of Iraqis from dictatorship and substantially improve their lives as "megalomaniacal". If anything is it humanitarian, though expensive.
The budget surpluses were partially the result of a bubble economy. Here's a case in point. Businesses like Lucent were booking tons of revenue because dot-coms were building infrastructure. They were buying all of Lucent's telecommunications equipment on credit because they were going to make it big with their internet business (Pets.com or swap.com are two huge failures). IPOs were rampant and stock prices were high, but only a small fraction of these companies had any revenue or any real chance of survival. The economy inflated on venture capital and debt and then popped - and we all know the rest of the story. 2001 and 2002 saw stocks fall to multi-year lows. One can blame the president for this, much the way Herbert Hoover was blamed for the depression. But every bubble has to pop. For Bush, it just happened to start as he was taking office. For Hoover, it was the tightening of the money supply that popped that bubble. I'm glad this administration had the sense to lower tax rates to stimulate the economy. When Roosevelt took office in '32, he went on a quest to raise tax rates and fund large government projects and create a welfare state. Many economists belive that this prolonged the depression for several years.
As for the world sending "good feelings" our way after 9/11 - so what? What good does that do? They also derided Bush for labeling Iran and N Korea "evil" and now they are in agreement with him. I have a separate conclusion. Spending aside, I think historians will put Bush among one of the stronger leaders in this nation's history.