Skip to comments.For Bush, No Boasts, but a Taste of Vindication
Posted on 03/08/2005 7:34:44 PM PST by neverdem
WASHINGTON, March 8 - He has gone out of his way not to crow, or even to take direct credit. But not quite two years after he began the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and not quite two months after a second inaugural address in which he spoke of "ending tyranny," President Bush seems entitled to claim as he did on Tuesday that a "thaw has begun" in the broader Middle East.
At the very least, Mr. Bush is feeling the glow of the recent flurry of impulses toward democracy in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and even Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where events have put him on a bit of a roll and some of his sharpest critics on the defensive. It now seems just possible that Mr. Bush and aides like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz were not wrong to argue that the "status quo of despotism cannot be ignored or appeased, kept in a box or cut off," as the president put it in a speech at the National Defense University here.
The failure to find unconventional weapons in Iraq, his administration's shifting rationales for the war, the lingering insurgency and steady American casualties there were a drag on Mr. Bush's political fortunes for most of last year. But a wave of developments since the better-than-expected Iraqi elections in January - some perhaps related and others probably not - have brought Mr. Bush a measure of vindication, which may or may not be sustained by events and his own actions in the months to come.
"By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny in the pursuit of stability have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy," Mr. Bush said on Tuesday. "It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace, because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors."
His two predecessors in the Oval Office, his father and Bill Clinton, both spoke of the latest signs of progress in an appearance at the White House. The first President Bush was restrained, pronouncing himself "very pleased," but cautioning that much work remained to be done.
Mr. Clinton was more ebullient, noting that the Iraqi elections "went better than anyone could have imagined." In Lebanon, he said, "the Syrians are going to have to get out of there and give the Lebanese their country back, and I think the fact that the Lebanese are in the street demanding it is wonderful."
Asked about huge demonstrations on Tuesday, sponsored by Hezbollah, that demanded just the opposite, Mr. Clinton said: "I find it inconceivable that most Lebanese wouldn't like it if they had their country back. You know, they want their country back and they ought to get it."
For his part, Mr. Bush himself again acknowledged that building democracy in the Middle East will require a "generational commitment."
One senior White House aide, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to overshadow his boss, acknowledged as much. "Obviously, the acts of courage we've seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, the demonstrations that happened in the Ukraine and now in Lebanon, these are very inspiring developments that have obviously caught the notice of the president," he said. "But this is very complicated stuff, and there are a lot of turns left on this journey, and the president at every step of the way has always cautioned it's going to be a difficult road."
Still, even as sharp and consistent a critic of Mr. Bush's foreign policy as Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, gives Mr. Bush some credit for the latest stirrings of liberty along the eastern Mediterranean.
"What's taken place in a number of those countries is enormously constructive," Mr. Kennedy said on Sunday on the ABC News program "This Week." "It's a reflection the president has been involved."
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut and a frequent ally of Mr. Bush on national security affairs, was in the audience for his speech on Tuesday and was more effusive.
"Look, this moment in the Middle East has the feel of Central and Eastern Europe around the collapse of the Berlin Wall," he said in a telephone interview. "It's a very different historical and political context, and we all understand that democracy in the Middle East is in its infancy. But something is happening."
Mr. Lieberman said Mr. Bush deserved credit for at least two things: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the continued American military presence in Iraq, which he said showed "the proven willingness of the United States to put its power behind its principles."
Indeed, Mr. Bush cast the United States' current posture in a long, bipartisan tradition of American foreign policy, from Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points to Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, Harry S. Truman's Marshall Plan and Ronald Reagan's unwillingness to accept Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe.
Mr. Bush's sharp demand on Tuesday that "all Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw" from Lebanon before the scheduled elections there in May, if the elections themselves are to be viewed as fair, was a sign that he has every intention of pressing what he sees as his advantage in the region and in the court of world opinion - whether he describes it that way in public or not.
Still, there are real and practical dangers in the passions recently unleashed in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia's recent limited municipal elections and President Hosni Mubarak's announcement that he will permit multiparty presidential elections in Egypt this fall are indisputably encouraging to would-be reformers here and there.
But full and genuine democratic elections in either country might well result in strongly anti-American regimes.
Too bad Bush chose private SS accounts rather than tort reform, ANWR, or border security as his first move out of the gates. His media aides have done a very poor job of explaining the plan to Americans, and the polls are nasty.
President Bush Presses for Peace in the Middle EastGreat speech. Read it.
Remarks by the President in Commencement Address at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
.... Our nation is strong. Our greatest strength is that we serve the cause of liberty. We support the advance of freedom in the Middle East, because it is our founding principle, and because it is in our national interest. The hateful ideology of terrorism is shaped and nurtured and protected by oppressive regimes. Free nations, in contrast, encourage creativity and tolerance and enterprise. And in those free nations, the appeal of extremism withers away.
OK. First my Red Sox win the World Series, and now this??
Is that hoofbeats of four riders I hear?
I agree with you.
Social security reform is important, but other issues are much more important. Judicial appointments, in particular. Bush has publicly said almost nothing on this issue.
They just can't bear to say he was right, can they?
Not surprising that the "patriots" have systematically ignored all that's been said and published by our administration and are now barely crediting them for any accomplishment and doing that grudgingly. This Hate America crowd will never come 'round.
Everybody underestimates Bush, Social Security is an iceberg and many of us are at the age it may sink us.
The man KNOWS what he is doing, don't ya'll know yet what 'polls' mean? NADA
President George W. Bush's Inaugural Address, January 20, 2001
... Through much of the last century, America's faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations.
Right you are. lol!
Thanks for the link.
Nicky your enthusiasm is wonderful if not stunning.(sp.)
We love your perspicacity.
Ya sent me to the dicitonary for that one...
I'll never forget the day Bush gave that Middle East speech back in 2003. I was driving over to the National Archives for some research, and I listened on C-Span. It all just made sense, and I was pumped to hear it. I went through security at Archives, and on up to the reading room, still thrilled by what I heard from the President. I asked the guys at the counter if they'd heard the speech, and they looked at me as if I had just told a bad joke. "Uh, whatever," I said, and walked off, laughing to myself that they'd be looking at some truly rough political seasons over the next few years.
This thing is far from over, as we see from Hezbollah's little game today. But the idea behind it is right, and it will win!
GWB: Lucky recipient of randomness. He certainly can't claim credit.< / NYT>
The reason he's not boasting is because he didn't do it to get applause .. he did it because it was the right thing to do.
Never thought I would read that from the NYTimes. Hope Chris Mathews read that. Ha
These "what if they were right" articles are hilarious.
I seemed to have missed the difficulty his political fortunes experienced last year. He won reelection and the Republicans picked up seats in the Senate and the House. Where did he stumble last year?
Tort reform is a done deal.
It doesn't matter what issue President Bush went after, the Dems. and their interest groups would be pummelling him unmercifully. If he went full throttle on tort reform, trial lawyers and their fellow travellers would be funding ads 24/7 about how President Bush and the nasty Republicans wanted Americans to die of botched operations, poisonous drugs, automobiles designed to kill, etc. They would have some mother, tissues in hand, crying about how she lost her only child (cue music and photos of angelic little girl or boy) to a doctor who had twenty malpractice suits in 5 years. "But President Bush and the Republicans in Congress want us to never find out that the person we are trusting the must precious thing we have in our lives to is has had 15 children die before in his care. And when the 16th child dies, like my Melissa/Adam (cue music and photos again), they want us to have no recourse against the doctor. The only thing I can do is go to the ceremony." (Breaks down in tears, over a picture of a grave with flowers and more music.)
Then he could have gone after ANWR and the environmental groups and their fellow travellers would be funding millions of dollars in ads to run 24/7. "President Bush and the Republicans in Congress want to destroy this (cue photos of cute animals playing in pristine forest) so that their friends in big oil can get even richer at our expense. Call President Bush and tell him he can't destroy our environment to make his big oil cronies even richer.
Open Borders? Another sob story. "Eduardo Garcia is 18. He is valedictorian of his high school. (Cue graduation photo in cap and gown, and music.) Neither of his parents were educated past the 6th grade, but both work very hard to give him and his 2 brothers and 3 sisters a better life. They have been paying taxes for 20 years, but President Bush and the Republicans in Congress want to deport Eduardo's parents to Ecuador. Eduardo and his brothers and sisters were all born in America and are American citizens (cue group photo where all family members are dressed in red white and blue and pose with a flag). Tell President Bush and the Republicans in Congress you do not want this family torn apart!
My point is that no matter *what* President Bush prioritized, the long knives (and sob stories) would be out. Convincing Americans of how personal accounts will make their lives better is not something that can be accomplished overnight. Do not lose hope. Do not grow impatient. I give President Bush a lot of credit for engaging in this campaign and it's not over until it's over.