Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Many Fail The Test


Good day, everyone. I got tired of sitting around waiting for small morsels of information from my father’s doctors, and have decided to post a thought while doing some laundry at home. I will be spending most of my time away from the computer, but will try to revisit this afternoon. Just in summary, thanks to everyone for their kind words, my father’s fever is all but back to normal, though he is very weak. Unfortunately, the docs found an abnormal growth and are waiting for test results to see if it’s benign or malignant. Unlike the TV shows, we aren’t getting answers after the commercial break, and what we are hearing is thin on detail and satisfaction. All that waiting has driven me to seek a means to concentrate on something more productive.

My father gave a long explanation of his dissatisfaction with antibiotics in general, owing to their function of purging the body. As a result, my father is focused on the odor and sense associated with bodily evacuation, which brings to my mind the present conduct of Conservatives and Republicans.

For a man who claimed 62 million popular votes in the last election, and who has done more to establish and maintain the Republican majority than any single individual in the last generation, President George W. Bush sure has to put up with a lot of garbage from his party and self-impressed commentators. I have, more than once, pointed out the virtues of our President, noted that there is no one remotely close in caliber to him running in 2008 save one who does not wish to run. I have noted that Dubya is far more subtle and forward-thinking than many people suspect, which helps him spring traps on liberals and tyrants, provided of course that his own party backs him up instead of putting a knife in his back. I have noted that Dubya’s record demonstrates this kind of multi-level operation; despite the claims from the Liberals, Dubs does not run headlong into a decision, but when the stakes are high he tends to order his actions according to the long-term solution and broadest resolution. This is why he did not panic during the VQ-1 incident in April 2001, where a Chinese fighter jet collided with a Navy reconnaissance aircraft in international waters. Ten days of tense negotiations resulted in the freedom of the 24 U.S. navy airmen, notably without an apology from the United States. In an implicit admission of guilt, the PRC shipped back the EP-3E aircraft to the United States, though in pieces – the Chinese claimed it was not possible to send it back any other way. This is why Bush’s actions on and shortly after 9/11/2001 were careful yet deliberate. This is why he took his time to decide on invading Afghanistan and Iraq, but once committed has never wavered, something few other Republicans have managed to maintain. This is why he requested tax cuts when the Democrats still held enough numbers in the Senate to cause trouble, and why he does not veto Congress – Bush makes his decisions, and trusts the Hill to do the right thing. For all the lies tossed out by the DNC, Bush is a man who strongly believes in the Separation of Powers, and while he fully employs his Presidential authority, he does not try to coerce or punish members of Congress or the Courts for performing their jobs. Whether one approves or not, Dubya is a man of honor, strange enough in Washington D.C., but also a man whose code demands consistency in that honor.

Detractors, opponents, and moral absconders may and do point to decisions they question, and attack the President for any appearance of mortality and personal preferences. Sadly, among these are some who should know better, and who owe far better to the man than they ever serve. Significant examples of this are self-worshipping demagogues like David Frum, people with great minds but petty egos, who forget too readily that no one elected them to office, and that their personal opinion far too often pretends to knowledge the White House holds but they do not. And then there are those whose criticism is valid on the facts, but who forget that timing and presentation make a difference between useful critique and providing ammunition for the enemy. A long time ago, I learned the business management maxim of ’praise in public, rebuke in private’, and it would do well to be employed here in politics. Not that I expect the likes of McCain or Specter to put country ahead of their personal pride, or the party ahead of a sound bite.

It should also be understood that while the President carries one third of the U.S. Government on his shoulders, he usually comes to depend on his staff and support for information and advice. It has been long noted that President is far more loyal and supportive of his team than Presidents usually are, and this sometimes leaves him open to take a hit for a staffer’s mis-statement or error. Also, too often the Bush White House lets an issue sit for too long before addressing it, allowing a valid position to be cast as a poor decision by the Left and the paranoid. A good example of this is the DP World deal, where the White House first failed to consider the likely reaction to the deal, and further failed to explain from the beginning that business contracts do not customarily receive Presidential oversight, especially prior to the DHS and other agencies’ review. Then the staff blundered again, by allowing the President to remain in the media cross-hairs, instead of having the proper individuals explain the situation in context. The U.A.E.’s recent history of close cooperation with the Department of Defense should have been brought up by someone wearing stars on his shoulders. The U.A.E.’s political structure and unique history, especially viz a viz Iran and Saudi Arabia, should have been brought up by the State Department, who were well aware that the U.A.E. is one of our best friends in the region, both in recent performance and in strategic potential. The nature of international businesses flagged in the U.A.E. should have been addressed by the Commerce Department, to remind Americans that the U.A.E. is a federal government of small countries, whose business interests are completely separate from government control in most cases, as in DP World. Instead, the spotlight was focused wrongly on President Bush, who was not properly briefed or supported when the questions began. And worse, it was allowed to remain there.

I have been trying to figure out just why Presidents are so often plagued as “lame ducks” in their second term, because I don’t see the men losing their vision or character. What I see instead, is that their team tends to coast, and worse thinks they have less responsibility for their Chief’s reputation and influence, when in fact they should be working harder than ever. In that light, the departure of Andrew Card is not only appropriate but necessary. I am not, in any way, impugning Card’s work; Chief of Staff of the White House is a slot for which words like “demanding”, “exhaustive”, and “frustrating” are distinct understatements. But with the right replacement, such a shake-up can be good for the Administration. It is an unfortunate custom of politics to deny a rotating squad concept, which could allow for a hard-working staff to take a break without fear of demotion or dismissal. It would also be a good thing for Bush to find someone with the steel to speak bluntly to the “team”. Rove, Rice, Rummy, and the gang are all major-leaguers, and it’s next to impossible for them to accept direction from anyone but the President. Dubs would do well to find someone he could place in front of the GOP and say, in essence, ’he speaks for me’. Bush had this kind of person before in Karen Hughes, in Cheney before tapping him for Veep, in Condi before she became SecState, so he knows how to pick them. The trick is finding someone willing to take the heat, to be the President’s pit bull, to kick GOP heads to get them in line. Frist and Hastert should have been doing this all along, but neither has shown the courage or ingenuity to get the job done in his post. McCain and Gingrich and Giuliani could each have taken the front spot in the 2008 race by taking up the challenge and showing himself the President’s protégé. I understand the noise coming from the poll-dependant, who forget that polls in the spring have diddly to do with election results, especially years later. I will say clearly that just like 2002 and 2004, in 2006 and 2008 any Republican who wants to be elected or re-elected will need the clear support and preference of President George W. Bush. That McCain and the other wanna-be Bosses do not understand this basic fact, demonstrates in advance their failure to think beyond the moment, and thus they prove themselves unequal to the office. The sole hope for the GOP in 2008 is that the Democrats continue to prove themselves even less-qualified.

I am hardly saying that President Bush is perfect. What I am saying, and have for quite a while now, is that he is President of the United States of America and the Chief Executive Officer of the Republican Party. He did what was necessary to claim those titles through two grueling campaigns, first to secure the party nomination then the office. He has neither lied nor misled anyone about whom he is or what he would do, and Bush’s performance on the most important concerns has been equal or better to anyone in the past 140 years. He owns the job, and so long as he holds it no Republican has the place to pretend they hold equal right or claim. While protest and debate are precious rights in American history and the fabric of our being, when Dubya gets it right he more than deserves credit for it, and not just for the day. Those tax cuts not only got the economy going again, they are still being felt. The Bush Doctrine not only freed Afghanistan and Iraq, it affected many other countries and is still being reflected in the acknowledgment that the United States can undertake missions beyond the scope of any other nation in the world. So when fair-weather Conservatives like Michelle Malkin whine that they are “not in the mood to wave pom-poms”, they betray how shallow they hold their ideals and commitment. If a Conservative finds a given proposal untenable, he does well to speak his mind, but in such a way that seeks a better answer. If however a Conservative tears down his party’s leader and President simply because it suits his pique, then he is no Conservative at all. This is sadly the way of Republicans too often. They deserted President Hoover after the Stock Market crashed, preferring to let him carry the shame when so much came from their own indolence. They deserted Eisenhower in his second term, finding it more to their liking to bicker about lost opportunities in Eastern Europe than to work to find more. They deserted Nixon when the House began to accuse White House aides, some justly, but some unjustly, preferring to abandon the President rather than keep their commitments. They deserted Reagan when the Democrats made up their lies about Iran-Contra, and they deserted G.H.W. Bush when the Democrats threatened to shut down Congress in order to force a tax hike. There have always been plenty of Republicans ready to sing along in victory, but who run for the hills when the going gets tough. From Novak to Will to Buchanan to McCain to Bennett, there are plenty of players willing to accept glory but not hardship, to eat at the feast but not work to prepare it, to enjoy the perks of command but not endure the attacks from the enemy. Such days as now are when men show their true colors, and many fail to keep the promise made.

I will say plainly that five years from now, Conservatives will miss George W. Bush, and they will wonder aloud why they have such a hard time finding his like. Just like Reagan before him, George W. Bush understands that to do the right thing, to take on the mantle of real leadership, often requires a man to stand alone, deserted and betrayed all too often even by those who promised they would pass the test. I have seen petty men and I have seen great men. I stand with the great man here, and will not be silent about my contempt for those whose confidence and enthusiasm is blown by the wind of the day.

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