Don't know why I bother. The man is leaving office in eight months; his presidency noticeably marked by the uneven tread of the lame duck. But so long as George W. Bush is commander in chief, there remains something mesmerizing about the way he seems to experience his momentous tenure virtually unscratched, even ungrazed, by his many brushes (collisions) with history.
I'm not suggesting callousness on his part regarding American casualties in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; or regarding American civilian casualties due to Islamic terrorism. I think he feels such losses very deeply. In fact, I think he feels everything very deeply. Whether the subject is his feelings about Mexican illegal aliens, the war in Iraq or on-off Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, I think Bush's presidency, at its base, has been an emotional presidency, more gut-driven and temporal than attuned to anything like that sweep of history you hear about.
I point this out on reading the president's remarks in Israel to mark the 60th anniversary of the nation's statehood.
"I suspect," Bush said, "if you looked back 60 years ago and tried to guess where Israel would be at that time, it would be hard to be able to project such a prosperous, hopeful land. No question people would have said, well, we'd be surrounded by hostile forces -- but I doubt people would have been able to see the modern Israel, which is one reason I bring such optimism to the Middle East, because what happened here is possible everywhere."
Let's run that last bit by again. The president says the singular experience of "modern Israel" is one reason for optimism in the Middle East "because what happened here (Israel) is possible everywhere."
The jaw drops. On recovery, I suppose the most direct response to this statement, better suited to a beauty-pageant Pollyanna than a war-scarred president, is: No, Mr. President. What happened in Israel is not possible everywhere. Just for starters, what happened in Israel happened to a people whose monotheism and ethics, as Martin Gilbert writes in "Churchill and the Jews," was, in Churchill's view, "a central factor in the evolution and maintenance of modern civilization" -- a central factor in liberty and democracy as the West still knows it.