Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The King of Chaos

In his masterpiece of literature, the 'Chronicles of Amber', novelist Roger Zelazny described two absolute powers, and the sometimes paradoxical relationship between them. Examining one side then the other over the course of ten books, Zelazny observed the difficulties of managing the affairs of a major state, to the point that even an absolute monarch is often bound by events and circumstances beyond his control. In the hardscrabble world we know, such is even more the case. No action occurs in a vacuum, nor is any decision truly unilateral. Decision-makers sometimes forget this, but pundits often do, and critics of officials display a ubiquitous ignorance of the difficulties of having to actually choose the course.

As he enters the long stretch of his last two years of public service, President Bush is faced with a dizzying array of problems and opposition, as difficult as any President has had to face in half a century. Congress is now under the direction of a political party which has no clear idea what it wants to do, except that it detests George W. Bush personally, for no better reason than his identity and existence. So far as I can tell, such an obsession leads to no good end. The Republican Party is not showing any discernible leadership either, as their participation in the desperately negligent ‘Iraq Study Group’ report demonstrates. The nation’s future depends on either the diligence of unworthy men, or the redemption of villains.

To be President of the United States is much more than to accept the heaviest duties of your time. It is also to accept responsibility for keeping all the past efforts in good order. Presidents who have been described as failures, very often not only failed the issues which rose in their office, but also were less than able to prevent old issues from returning, as Presidents Hoover, Pierce, and Carter made painfully obvious. Presidents who have been described as successful, were often not so popular in their day, but Time and a better perspective vindicated them.

With this quality of character in mind, it seems to me appropriate to pray to God that our next President must possess such qualities as a slow temper, a long perspective, a sound understanding of History, and the humble knowledge of his or her limits. I must emphasize that the ability to be elected President is quite different from the ability to do the job properly, so it is apparent that there are some people who could win the office, but who cannot be said to be qualified for it.

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