Skip to comments.Man with a Mission: George W. Bush finds his calling.
Posted on 10/01/2001 7:34:42 AM PDT by Pokey78
ON THE AFTERNOON before his televised speech to the nation on September 20, President Bush invited 27 religious leaders to join him at the White House and draft an ecumenical response to the terrorist attacks on America. Bush spent more than an hour with the group, talking about his concerns as president and listening to their views. Later in the afternoon, six of the religious leadersa Catholic cardinal, a Sikh, an imam, a rabbi, and two evangelical Protestantstalked and prayed with Bush in the Oval Office. James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Bush he had been chosen by God to lead the nation in the fight to protect America and the world against terrorism. "I believe you are Gods man for this hour," Merritt said. "Gods hand is on you." The president nodded.
Whether in a Christian or a more secular sense, Bush believes hes been "called" to lead the country in the war against terrorism. He feels its not just by accident or luck that hes president now. This feeling is reflected in the presidents speeches, his comments to reporters, and his conduct. Some whove met with Bush sense it in his demeanor. Several religious leaders at the larger gathering on September 20 referred to his calling. Bush and his aides have discussed it. One White House official, in an off-the-record speech, spoke of Bushs role now as his destiny. Bush himself has often said he thinks "things happen for a reason." Karl Rove, his senior adviser, says the need to defend America and eradicate terrorism following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon "may be the reason hes president, the purpose for which hes been put in officehis calling."
Whats the practical effect of this? We see it in Bushs personal behavior. The religious leaders who met with him were struck by his calm. The most important speech of his presidency was a few hours away, plus dinner with British prime minister Tony Blair, yet Bush appeared to have all the time in the world to confer with them. Jean Elshtain, a professor of religion and politics at the University of Chicago, said he exuded a combination of humility and self-confidence. He said First Lady Laura Bush had "chastened" him for saying Osama bin Laden was "wanted dead or alive" and indicated he wouldnt be using that phrase again. Bush asked for prayers for the country, the victims of September 11, himself, his family. They prayed, holding hands, and sang "God Bless America." There was an awareness, a participant said, "of a real calling here."
Nearly everyone whos met privately with Bush since the attacks has been impressed by his resolve to defeat the perpetrators of terrorism. Bush has voiced this in public. "I will not yield," he declared in his September 20 speech. "I will not rest. I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people." At the same time, hes counseled patience in retaliating against terrorists. Hes not overeager.
Bushs belief in his calling has altered his relationship with top aides. Pre-September 11, Bush often appeared to be the student of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on national security issues. He seemed to defer to them. Thats no longer the case. They may have more experience, but the burden of leadership is on him. Hes less deferential now and didnt hesitate to override Powells plan for releasing proof of Osama bin Ladens culpability and to do so in public with Powell by his side.
Policy has also been affected. A few weeks ago, Bush said spurring the economy was the top priority of his administration. The economy still needs spurring, but on September 13 Bush said the nation "must understand [the war on terrorism] is now the focus of my administration." Given that, getting his way on domestic policy is less important now. Hes decided his initiatives must be as bipartisan as possiblewhatever it takes to keep broad support for the war. He favors an economic stimulus package thats agreeable to congressional Democratic leaders. This has caused grumbling among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Bush has also defined the war on terrorism in the broadest possible terms. This reflects, from all outward evidence, a commitment to carry the fight well beyond snuffing out Osama bin Laden and his network. Thats the risky course, but Bush has expressed no qualms about staking his presidency on it.
His language reinforces this. He characterizes the war in religious terms, as one against "evil" and "evildoers." In a photo opportunity at the start of a White House session with Muslim leaders, he used the word "evil" six times in responding to reporters questions. Though Bush hasnt called terrorists Satan, hes come close. Last Friday in a photo op with King Abdullah of Jordan, he said the bin Laden gang represented "evil and hate and destruction." In his September 20 address, he said they "plot evil and destruction." He said "God is not neutral" in the war against terrorism. And he spoke about the country in terms that might apply to himself. At least some White House staffers think so. "In our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment," the president said. Bush has found his. He said, "the country is called to defend freedom." So is he.
It was Merritt, the Southern Baptist, who gave Bush a Christian view of his calling. He said Bushs early career hardly pointed to the White House, but God changed his path. Bush was a moderately successful businessman, then general manager of a baseball team. In 1994, he was expected to lose the race for governor of Texas, while his brother Jeb was supposed to win the governorship in Florida. The opposite happened. Last year, he lost the popular vote, but wound up in the White House anyway. God knows the future, Merritt told Bush, and knew the terrorist attack would occur while Bush was president. The stage was set for Bush to be Gods agent of wrath.
That view may be hard for non-Christiansand even some Christiansto swallow. But theres another take on "calling." Bush had a calling to public service. He accepted it and, a few years later, landed in the White House. Its a calling like that of a fireman who feels called to his work to save people. He could have taken a less dangerous, better paying job, but didnt. A calling may not be religious, but its more than just having stumbled into a job or career. Theres a sense of destiny. Either way, Bush is sure hes been called to lead America at this moment in history.
Success is not guaranteed. Jimmy Carter was a sincere Christian, willing to endure criticism for being "born again," but he failed as president. Bush has said he reads the Bible every morning and prays frequently during the day. But he also understands we cannot know the mind of God and has said so. Besides, Christians recognize God doesnt use only believers. President Lincolns faith was ambiguous, but he saved the Union. In hindsight, it looks like he answered Gods call. If, years from now, we see that the evil of terrorism was dramatically restrained through Bushs leadership, well know he was called. And responded well.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
It's been too long, almost forgot what it was like. And imagine, for some, it's the first time.
As a Christian, I find it hard to believe that any Christian who believes in the Sovereignty of God, does not see God's hand in the election of George W. Bush, and in his calm, strong leadership during this crisis.
He has, as was Esther of old, come to his position of leadership "for such a time as this."
Thanks for the ping, MJY!
Thanks be to the God of the Universe that George W. Bush is our President.
And thanks, MJY, for the ping.