'Person' of the year

Posted: Dec 26, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- In keeping with many American journalists' evasion of meaning, Time magazine has given its "Person of the Year" not to a person but to a group of persons, or is it to a person who has no name? "The American Soldier" is Time's "Person of the Year." That represents a very fine sentiment. The American military once again deserves the citizenry's highest esteem, but the American military is not a person. I am glad that I am not an editor at Time. Had I been one, I would have argued that the magazine celebrate our soldiers, sailors and pilots. Moreover, I would have thrown in those duty-bound intelligence operatives who play such an important role in American security, but I would not give the "Person of the Year" accolade to a non-person.

As it happens, I am an editor. In fact, I am an editor in chief, and as editor in chief of The American Spectator, I am affirming that the magazine this year take up the burden of conferring a "Person of the Year" accolade on an actual person, President George W. Bush. He has shown himself to be a president of colossal achievement. He has faced up to international terrorism. If an earlier president had, America might not be remembering September 11, 2001, as another "date which will live in infamy." A rather good book by Richard Miniter, "Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror," irrefragably makes the case that America did not have to await Osama bin Laden's slaughter to take on the terrorists.

President Bush faced up to his responsibilities. He adopted a clear-sighted strategic demarche to deal with the terrorists' new threat to America, the doctrine of preemption. And he very successfully waged war in two rogue nations, thus sobering up a region that has been the breeding ground for terrorists. Libya's sudden willingness to give up its, Iran's and North Korea's weapons of mass destruction now under its control makes it clear that the Bush policy has been prudent.

President Bush has also revived an economy that was in decline when he arrived in office. In doing so, he has demonstrated that the policies of supply-side used so effectively by President Ronald Reagan are the modern way to ensure a prosperous economy. Detracting from the president's success in reviving the economy is the lavish government spending that is a threat to stable economic growth and the Medicare prescription drug bill that is going to be far costlier than Congress predicts. Well, perhaps the president can rectify these matters in the years ahead.

Finally, to the best of his ability, our "Person of the Year" has changed the climate in Washington as he promised. He has not been guilty of the slurs, deceits and insults that characterized his predecessor. He has not indulged in the vituperation and mendacity that the mediocrities seeking the Democratic nomination regularly practice against him. For the first time since post-Civil War politicians sought election by "waving the bloody shirt," Democrats have legitimatized anger against an opponent as a campaign tactic. Some of the president's opponents in the Democratic Party and in the soi-disant intelligentsia actually boast of their hatred of the president.

Our "Person of the Year" has not responded in kind. This is because he is a gent. The president has cultivated the virtues of a gentleman, not the least of which is what New Frontiersmen once called "grace under pressure." Attendant with his gentlemanly behavior, he does not draw inordinate attention to himself. While his prospective opponents brag of their every quirk and vainglorious achievement, the president displays a seemly modesty, even though he is the most powerful man on earth. One of his traits that I have noted in reading his biographies is that he is reluctant to lay claim to achievements that are not his own. Not only will we not see him claiming to have given us the Internet, he is even reluctant to boast of clever turns of phrase written for him by his very capable speechwriters. In one anecdote I read, he joked about how someone else wrote something for him. Such candor is very refreshing in an era when political candidates are so frequently being caught stretching the truth and even plagiarizing.

Thus, in an era of gasbags, George W. Bush has stood out as a gentleman. Like the quiet, undemonstrative men who captured the brutal Saddam Hussein, he allows his actions to speak for him. The actions constitute a presidential record of historic import. Right now those actions place him on the presidential tier of Harry Truman, just below the lofty estate of Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Doubtless he has five more years to see if he can match those great leaders. Unfortunately, the challenge of international terror might give him sufficient opportunities to do so.

For now he is faced with a smaller challenge. He is an ardent physical fitness buff, and the doctors have told him sore knees will hamper his runs. Mr. President, I suggest ice on both knees and wearing a neoprene sleeve on them when you run. If that prescription fails, face the fact of your middle-aged hinges and ride a stationary bike. We at The American Spectator want our "Person of the Year" cheerful and vigorous for the year ahead. It is going to be a demanding one.