Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Listening to the fatuous Al Gore claim his undeserved Nobel Prize and maunder on about how America is ruining the planet makes me realize how fortunate America is to have as its president George W. Bush. Yes, Bush has his ample share of failings. He occasionally speaks at the fifth-grade level. He is too willing to surround himself with cronies and sycophants. An unsupple man, Bush sometimes reminds me of the toy soldier who walks into the wall and keeps going.
Bush's weaknesses, however, are more than compensated for by his one great strength. This is a man with unbelievable tenacity. No American president in my lifetime, not even Reagan, had Bush's guts. Perhaps one would have to go all the way back to Franklin or Teddy Roosevelt to find comparable determination. On the international stage, Bush's stamina recalls that of Churchill. Consider: when Bush was elected in 2000 with the tiniest conceivable margin--a margin so slender it required Supreme Court intervention to place him in the Oval Office--I was sure that Bush's proposed tax cuts were dead. But no: Bush pushed ahead and got most of what he proposed. And the subsequent health of the economy--low interest rates, low unemployment, steady growth--has undoubtedly been nourished by Bush's tax cuts.
Then in 2006, after the midterm debacle, I thought that Bush's Iraq policy was finished. And you could hear the pundits and the newly-elected Democratic congressmen and the pathological Bush-haters gleefully declaring, "Now he's going to have to start pulling out of Iraq." Instead Bush pressed for an increase of 20,000-25,000 troops. Incredibly, he got it. Congress shrieked and howled but went along. The American people were very doubtful, but Bush serenely told them to "wait and see." Bush has seemingly singe-handedly pursued his vision for Iraq even when his allies both at home and abroad have dwindled or lost their nerve. And once again Bush's policy seems to be working. Iraq is becoming more peaceful, and apparently there are Shia and Sunni leaders cooperating with the Americans. The Bush-haters are still with us, but the wind has gone out of the antiwar movement.
Bush has had a tough second term in office. But I think history will be kinder to him than the opinion polls, at least in the past couple of years, have been. When the country looks back at Iraq and sees a standing, even if fragile, democracy, Americans will see that when they became impatient, Bush forged ahead. When they were ready to give up, he was undeterred. And as a consequence the Middle East has its first Muslim democracy, and a pro-American democracy to boot. The lesson of Iraq may well be: Thank God we didn't listen to those advocates of defeat on the left; if we had, it would have been Vietnam all over again.
The diplomat Clare Luce once wrote that history, which has no room for clutter, will remember every president by just one line. I'm not quite sure how Bill Clinton will be remembered: perhaps his only distinguishing mark will be the one that Paula Jones identified. As for Bush, he will go down in history as the president who refused to back down, and if staying the course in Iraq proves to be the right move, then Bush could be remembered as one of America's great presidents.