George W. Bush and Presidential Greatness

It's very unfashionable these days to say nice things about George W. Bush. After six years of being screamed at by the press, even W's friends are getting worn down.  But that's no different from Lincoln and Truman. Being screamed at long and hard is practically an entrance test for presidential stature in America.

I'll bet right now that Bush 43 will come to be seen as one of the most important presidents, not because he has solved the challenges of the war we now face, but because he is the first president to try to do so with all his heart and soul.  In the Long War on Islamofascism, future administrations will learn from George W. Bush, just as Cold War presidents learned from Harry S Truman. Truman didn't win the Cold War, but he defined it for the next forty years. Like Truman's, this is a watershed administration, gifted with the intelligence and courage to recognize the times we live in.

Sad to say, our Democrat Party isn't ready to govern. The only thing more terrifying than nuked—up mullahs is the Democrats' eagerness to give them whatever their tiny hearts desire. It was Bill Clinton who gave two nuclear reactors to Kim Jong Il in exchange for a promise to be good —— but with no actual inspections for five years. It was Jimmah Carter who allowed Ayatollah Khomeini to seize power in Tehran, because a religious person like Khomeini just had to be a lot sweeter than the Shah. The sadomasochistic nature of the Khomeini regime is incomprehensible to ole Jimmah, who naturally still thinks he was right all along.  The dictionary doesn't have a word for that kind of folly. It is beyond words.

Clinton and Carter are unable to learn. The press constantly tells them how wonderful they are, and invents new delusions to set the stage for more Democrat fiascos to come.  So Clinton and Carter keep the Democrats stuck in a mythic past. Jimmy Carter really believes he had Kim Jong Il changing course toward peace and love in 1994. Clinton presumably believes Yasser Arafat really was going to stick with his solemn agreements with Israel. For the Democrats it's "shoulda—woulda—coulda" forever and ever.

But great PR does not make for great presidencies. Passing the buck doesn't do it. Had Lincoln chosen to ignore those shots fired at Fort Sumter in April, 1861 he would have enabled the end of the United States.  Had Harry Truman failed to drop the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US would have lost hundreds of thousands more lives —— or settled with an Imperial Japan that was only a decade away from nuclear weapons. Such decisions are inhumanly difficult, but they must be made with clarity and courage. That is why Carter and Clinton will forever be third—raters, and why Truman and Bush 43 may be among our best. For our greatest presidents it's not "book learning" but character  that matters.

Moral intuition is the key. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said that FDR had a third—rate mind but first—rate political instincts.  What Lippmann didn't say was that most of our lives are governed by finely honed instincts: only intellectuals try to define every word they say, and it constantly gets them snarled up when they try to act: It's the Hamlet syndrome. In contrast, moral intuition is cherished in Anglo—American conservatism because our intuitions capture truths that cannot be fully articulated. Karl Marx was a creature of German and French philosophy, which is precisely why his ideas have been so immensely destructive of human lives and happiness. Marx represents the triumph of ungrounded intellect over reality—based intuition.

Our chattering classes think that ordinary Americans are stupid, because they don't know the difference between Slovakia and Slovenia. But they know the difference between right and wrong: which is a lot more important, and an insight in painfully short supply among those who fashion themselves of superior mental capacity.

By the measure of moral clarity and courage, George W. Bush is right up there with the best in American history.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.

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