Near the end of his magnificent book, "1776," historian David McCullough writes this about George Washington: "He was not a brilliant strategist or tactician, not a gifted orator, not an intellectual. At several crucial moments he had shown marked indecisiveness. He had made serious mistakes in judgment."
Sound familiar? That's what critics of today's "George W." say about him.
McCullough concludes, "But experience had been (Washington's) great teacher from boyhood, and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience."
Has the contemporary "George W." learned from experience?
In what could be a critical week for the Bush administration, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald may indict top White House aide and political guru Karl Rove, along with Vice President Cheney's chief of staff and a chief strategist in the war in Iraq, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
If that happens, the media and their ideological friends in the Democrat Party might raise the ghost of Richard Nixon, asserting whatever errors, indiscretions or illegalities these men may have committed are akin to Watergate.
That probably won't fly for long and the Democrats, given their recent history of defending Bill Clinton from moral and ethical indiscretions (including lying under oath), don't have much credibility in that area.
But even though the Democrats are in disarray and have no moral standing or ideas, it's not an excuse for the White House to ride out potentially bad publicity and refuse to do something to halt the continuing slide in public approval ratings.
What to do? First, the president should shake up his staff, bringing in new people who have vision, experience and unquestioned integrity.
Then, he should say what he thinks it means to be a conservative Republican, which once meant smaller, cheaper and less intrusive government. Under Republicans, the cost and reach of government have expanded, including gobs of new money for education and new entitlement programs that would shame a New Dealer. A real conservative would at least try to reverse this trend, even if he fails.
The president should announce something dramatic regarding the war in Iraq. He should speak about America's objective as victory, instead of the withdrawal of U.S. troops once Iraqi forces are ready to take over.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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