Two Good Traits
Others will no doubt point out the leadership flaws of the outgoing president--the stunning lack of curiosity, the inability to connect personally and credibly with the public, the ideological blinders that prevented him from seeing the world as it really was, the over-emphasis on delegation and the unwillingness to get personally involved in important matters or to take responsibility for failure.
Let me suggest, however, two Bush traits that are to be admired.
Historians tend to give Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, our greatest wartime leaders, high marks for their willingness to "stay the course" at times when military operations were not going well or when the war, or the prospect of war, was unpopular with the public. George Bush is no hardly in their league. But he does deserve credit for his constancy in the Iraq war effort, refusing to retreat when things were going badly, embracing a new strategy and seeing it through to a more acceptable (if not totally satisfactory) conclusion.
Those of us who opposed the war from the beginning need to acknowledge that the long-term damage from an overly-hasty retreat could have been quite substantial, both in terms of our international standing and the morale of the armed forces. Bush's patience and willingness to find another strategy, irrespective of its impact on his popularity, are both hallmarks of good presidential leadership.
Obviously, the result is not the kind of victory or transformation of the Middle East the administration originally promised or envisioned. But it will make it possible for the new president to effectuate an orderly withdrawal that does not leave the world wondering if the world's major superpower has the political will to finish what it starts.
In the last year, in response to the financial crisis and the loss of control of both houses of Congress, Bush has also shown a capacity to grow and adapt that I didn't think he had. The administration's response was a bit tardy, and at times begrudging, but in the end it was forceful and flexible and utterly in violation of some of the president's most cherished free-market principles. Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and their teams deserve the credit for designing the response that helped to avoid a disastrous financial meltdown. But to his credit, the President was willing to give them the room to maneuver and provided them whatever political cover he could, given his unpopularity with the public and politicians of his own party.
Posted by: cericola01 | January 17, 2009 7:21 PM
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Posted by: dynamo2000 | January 6, 2009 5:21 PM
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