Friday, November 07, 2008

TWO SIDES TO EVERY PERSON'S STORY

I couldn't resist reprinting a portion and linking to the entire article by Michael Gerson, Washington Post group writer, on a side of our present President that some may tend to forget.


By Michael GersonFriday, November 7, 2008


Election Day 2008 must have been filled with rueful paradoxes for the sitting president. Iraq -- the issue that dominated George W. Bush's presidency for 5 1/2 bitter, controversial years -- is on the verge of a miraculous peace. And yet this accomplishment did little to revive Bush's political standing -- or to prevent his party from relegating him to a silent role.

The achievement is historic. In 2006, Iraq had descended into a sectarian killing spree that seemed likely to stop only when the supply of victims was exhausted. Showing Truman-like stubbornness, Bush pushed to escalate a war that most Americans -- and some at the Pentagon -- had already mentally abandoned.

The result? A Sunni tribal revolt against their al-Qaeda oppressors, an effective campaign against Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra, and the flight of jihadists from Iraq to less deadly battlefields. In a more stable atmosphere, Iraq's politicians have made dramatic political progress. Iraqi military and police forces have grown in size and effectiveness and now fully control 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces. And in the month before Election Day, American combat deaths matched the lowest monthly total of the entire war.

For years, critics of the Iraq war asked the mocking question: "What would victory look like?" If progress continues, it might look something like what we've seen.

But Air Force One -- normally seen swooping into battleground states for rallies during presidential elections -- was mainly parked during this campaign. President Bush appeared with John McCain in public a total of three times -- and appeared in McCain's rhetoric as a foil far more often than that.

This seems to be Bush's current fate: Even success brings no praise. And the reasons probably concern Iraq. The absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in the aftermath of the war was a massive blow. The early conduct of the Iraq occupation was terribly ineffective. Hopes that the war had turned a corner -- repeatedly raised by Iraqis voting with purple fingers and approving a constitution -- were dashed too many times, until many Americans became unwilling to believe anymore.
Initial failures in Iraq acted like a solar eclipse, blocking the light on every other achievement. But those achievements, with the eclipse finally passing, are considerable by the measure of any presidency. Because of the passage of Medicare Part D, nearly 10 million low-income seniors are receiving prescription drugs at little or no cost. No Child Left Behind education reform has helped raise the average reading scores of fourth-graders to their highest level in 15 years and narrowed the achievement gap between white and African American children. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has helped provide treatment for more than 1.7 million people and compassionate care for at least 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children. And the decision to pursue the surge in Iraq will be studied as a model of presidential leadership.

These achievements, it is true, have limited constituencies to praise them. Many conservatives view Medicare, education reform and foreign assistance as heresies. Many liberals refuse to concede Bush's humanity, much less his achievements.

But that humanity is precisely what I will remember. I have seen President Bush show more loyalty than he has been given, more generosity than he has received. I have seen his buoyancy under the weight of malice and his forgiveness of faithless friends. Again and again, I have seen the natural tug of his pride swiftly overcome by a deeper decency -- a decency that is privately engaging and publicly consequential.

Before the Group of Eight summit in 2005, the White House senior staff overwhelmingly opposed a new initiative to fight malaria in Africa for reasons of cost and ideology -- a measure designed to save hundreds of thousands of lives, mainly of children under 5. In the crucial policy meeting, one person supported it: the president of the United States, shutting off debate with a moral certitude that others have criticized. I saw how this moral framework led him to an immediate identification with the dying African child, the Chinese dissident....."

See the rest of the article here...http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/04/AR2008110403818_pf.html

As the title of this post says...there are two sides to every story.

Paul B.

8 comments:

traveller said...

Having been to Iraq both before the war and after I remain uncertain how wise we were to go on that adventure. And it remains to be seen how things will ultimately turn out in Iraq. It is too early to know.

However, I do think some of these other things such as the malaria eradication program in Africa, etc. do reflect a side of President Bush that has not been very evident. As the article points out his natural constituency is generally not as compassionate as he is and his political opponents, in typical fashion of all politicians seeking to only congratulate themselves, do not wish to give Bush credit for what he has done.

It will be interesting to see how his legacy is viewed 10-20 years from now.

Paul Burleson said...

Traveler,

Good thoughts.

I believe the wisdom of going to war in Iraq will be debated for a LONG time to come. I'm even suspect of Bush's motive to some degree. I'm thinking there may be more of a desire to right a perceived wrong [Elder Bush not finishing the first war in Iraq] in younger Bush's mind than even he realizes. This is, I'm sure in a mixture with a lot of other motivations that would be thought of as good or bad depending on a persons political views. [No one's motivation for any action is pure OR simple that's for sure.]

But I do believe there is a basic decency in him as Gerson points out. It appears to me he is being demonized beyond measure by many who have no willingness to see anything good he has done.

I have my disappointments about some things and I have my admiration over some things. It is this ambivalence that I believe we must carry, generally speaking, about most people and their activities. [Even about ourselves sometimes.]

Add to that my natural tendency to be for the perceived underdog and my desire for fairness and you see my own motives may be a bit suspect. :)

traveller said...

Good thoughts as well. In a bit of a shift, I think one of the things President Obama will face is the high expectations so many have of him. It is unlikely he will satisfy any of them.

We have this tendency to think our presidents should solve all of our, and the world's, problems, when they are human just like us.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Oh,yes!

Only a Christian who has been through the training mill of life can write that, and act as if he believes it.

The religionists are adamant: There's only one side!

Bobby Brown said...

I am sure Bush did many good things, any President does. This article fails to mention that his admistration had one of if not the largest increase in the size of Federal government and Federal deficit in the history of our country. It is also my personal opinion that we should not have gone into Iraq. I mean that from a Biblical viewpoint not just from the fact that most of the rest of the world disagreed. Of course I realize that I may be wrong about that. As you pointed out only time will tell and more importantly we can one day ask the One who knows for sure. The recent election simply illustrates how most Americans think his admistration although not all bad was not the best.

Bobby Brown

Paul Burleson said...

Bobby,

Thanks for commenting.

I'm reminded that after Pearl Harbor we saw great expense nationally and even personally as we entered the war and even saw tires, nylons and gas get expensive and in short supply. [I wasn't there of course, well I was but only a mere one year old. :)]But the expense, nationally AND personally, was understood in light of that war. I have some of the same feelings about our several years of expense nationally and personally following 9-11.

No excuses for Bush or any leaders on bad decisions but it has been a bit of a unique time in history for America. In that context I think future generations will be tempered in their assessment of all that has happened to our economy.

I DO wonder if the national debt should be used to cover bad decisions in our way of life with credit, banking, and spending beyond our means and needs. That may be a different issue entirely.

Just some thoughts.


Aussie John,

Good to hear from you again too.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

Having served in the military under 7 presidents and though not always in agreement with the men, sometimes extremely difficult to maintain objectivity, I remained respectful of the institution. It is when the respect diminishes and partisan disdain for the human being dominates the issue that drives objectivity out the window. It is also not biblical. I fully understood the issues at hand leading to the Iraq war and personally read all the intelligence reports leading to the WMD decision. You go with what the American people have paid high level personnel to deliver in the form of advice and counsel. The mistake from my perspective was not the going but failure to carry out all the phases once you made the decision to go. Presidents have to live with these decisions.

The one comment not reflected above regarding President Bush, who I deeply respect and admire, is the fact of no successful terrorist attack on US soil since that fateful day of 9/11. A tremendous statistic yet woefully overlooked and seldom discussed. This would not be the case unless the fight had been taken to the soil of the terrorist. The President made the decision to make this ball game an away game. History I believe will be favorable in this light plus others mentioned above.

Thanks for letting me comment.

Steve in San Antonio

Paul Burleson said...

Steve,

EXCELLENT comment especially coming from a lifelong military person. Thanks.