The right man at the right time

Bill Murchison
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Posted: Apr 16, 2003 12:00 AM

"History will record a great American president who finally upheld what America stands for: liberty for all ... "

Gracious sakes, who would write in that vein to The New York Times? Some doddering Republican precinct chairman in Petal, Miss.?

The Dick Cheney family's assistant chauffeur? Not -- surely not -- an Arab? But, yes, Sami Assadi, a self-identified member of the Arab diaspora, felt led to express his delight at the president's leadership, given "what is evolving in front of our eyes." He wanted likewise to register his weariness at being "patronized by Western leaders who have supported brutal regimes in the Middle East that keep the Arabs down ... "

Those would be leaders of a different stripe than the U.S. president who initiated, and is methodically pressing, the campaign for Iraq's liberation.

Sami Assadi has paid his own tribute. It is time many more of us chimed in. Hooray for George W. Bush, a president who did what he had to do and did it right!

The armed forces did the fighting. The Pentagon laid the plans. Counselors of all sorts put in all sorts of oars. Nonetheless, the thing could not have worked absent the steadiness and resolve of the commander in chief himself -- this so-called Yale frat boy, hungering, supposedly, to be as big a man as Daddy. If Yale frat boys, collectively, perform with the signal decisiveness of Brother George, the U.S. government should scoop them up the instant they graduate.

As war leader, George W. Bush has performed -- is performing -- magnificently. It puts one in mind of many things, such as the capacity of the chronically underestimated to run like thoroughbreds when the starting gun goes off.

Another thing that comes to mind are the large consequences that sometimes flow from minuscule events -- like the election count in certain Florida precincts. The Duke of Wellington called Waterloo "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your lives." That was before the 2000 presidential election, which was nearer. The "we wuz robbed" syndrome persists in certain political circles to this day, so narrow was the count, so rancorous were the feelings the count produced.

Now if people want to go around with stuck-out lower lips on account of Florida, that's their American right, God bless 'em. But sights should be raised higher. Suppose the near-run thing that was Florida had gone the other way, and Al Gore had become president. If it had, I wouldn't be giving short odds on the prospect of blessings descending upon the American president from the likes of Sami Assadi and the joyous multitudes in Iraq.

This isn't to call Gore a wimp. It is to say only that he and Bush see many things differently -- not least the issue of independent U.S. action vs. subservience to the United Nations. Maybe, after all, it takes a "cowboy" -- that favorite European pejorative -- to get things done in this gunslinger world. A body could get killed waiting for Kofi Annan to assemble a decent posse.

And further: What if President Gore had shown himself the political equivalent of George Patton -- hell-for-leather-ready to wipe out Saddamism? How would he have sold this aspiration to his fellow Democrats? With extraordinary difficulty, that's how, the Cold War Democrats having turned into the party of peace at most prices you can name. It took a Republican president to move, first, his party, then the Congress, then the nation into alignment with a controversial strategy: doing good for Americans by doing good for Iraqis. It's hard to see how Gore could have brought off such a strategy, even in the unlikely event such a strategy had impressed him.

A near-run thing, this Iraq business for sure, and still not finished. For this sort of thing, you want not just political functionaries but gamblers. Maybe also cowboys, who have been known to gamble a little bit. George W. Bush was the right man at the right time. Hip, hip, hooray.

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