WASHINGTON -- I suppose it will be considered highly outre for me to say it, but I shall say it anyway. The president spoke quite well in his press conference this week, and was very gentlemanly when he caught one of the journalists interrogating him in an embarrassing malapropism. The hack asked him to be "reflexive" about the war in Iraq when the word he meant to use was "reflective." Critics of the White House press corps will understand the slip. Most of these hacks are reflexive even on those rare occasions when they make an elementary effort at being reflective. In fact, their thought processes are almost wholly reflexive.
"Very impressive," is how the British historian and journalist Paul Johnson found this president a week ago when the president conferred on him a Presidential Medal of Freedom. This week in his press conference Bush lived up to Johnson's assessment.
One of the salient messages to be taken from this press conference is that the White House is now engaged in a far-ranging reevaluation of America's military posture. That is all to the good. However, I am not sure I would adopt the drastic measures being suggested by some of the critics of this war, for instance the bellicose Sen. Edward (Teddy) Kennedy. Reevaluating our tactics and strategy is appropriate, though we should resist the drift of the Massachusetts senator's taunts about the Iraq war dragging on longer than our war with Germany and Japan. Yes, senator, the United States could end this war as expeditiously as it ended World War II, but the use of nuclear weapons on Iraqi cities is not the way to do it. Really Sen. Kennedy in old age has become frighteningly hotheaded, and it is not reassuring to see that other Democrats -- for instance Rep. Nancy Pelosi -- are also recommending the brevity of World War II as more desirable than our more moderate pace in Iraq. They are a reckless lot.
They are also impatient, which is one of the reasons that I too have given thought to a revision in our military posture. The strong consensus among Republicans and Democrats when we sent troops into Afghanistan was apparently misleading. At first it looked as though all Americans were going to stand with the president to defeat the reemergence of right-wing aggressors, this time in the form of Baathists in Iraq and Islamofascists in Afghanistan. But apparently at least the Democrats do not have the patience to pacify these conquered countries. For a certitude they lack the stomach for Franklin Roosevelt's goal of transforming Nazi Germany and militaristic Japan into democracies.