By Dick Morris
March 19, 2003
After 9-11, he responded to events. Now he transcends them. As this president faces the tasks imposed by history, he rises from its pages. Its time for us all to thank the Lord that we have this decisive man in office at this crucial time.
One comes to respect his intelligence and political skill, but more his clarity, his understanding of what is important and his focus on the values he carries in his soul. His wisdom is not the product of complexity or subtlety. It stems, instead, from the simplicity of his profound understanding of good and evil.
In the State of the Union speech, he spoke of his daily task of facing new terrorist threats and the hourly burden of responding. Now we watch in awe at the dignity with which he bears our burden.
Like a gyroscope he keeps his bearing, always rising above the coming horizon. He intuitively knows where he must lead like the needle of a compass shows us the north.
I don't agree with very much of his domestic program. It is too limited and based on an assumption of governmental inactivity that I do not share. I think that Bill Clinton was the better president up to the water's edge. But, on the critical aspect of his presidency, the war on terror, he is right on and has always been. He keeps his political balance as he maintains his internal ballast. His clarity of vision rises above that of his predecessor and his grasp of the requirements of history is deeper and more thorough.
Clinton always lamented that he was not in office during a time of overwhelming national emergency. He once told me that you needed a war to rise to top rank among presidents. Yet it is the bitter irony of his presidency that he had a war to fight, he just never realized it and never fought it.
Bush would be wasted in another era. His skills would not have been as finely developed as they have been under this challenge. We would never have truly known him. He likely would not have even come to know himself as well as he now has.
Some say Bush's diplomacy has failed. That's not true. He succeeded in conducting negotiations without letting his purity be corrupted or his vision dimmed. This is the ultimate success, not failure, in diplomacy.
Others say he has squandered the sympathy the world had for us after 9-11. Again the criticism is wide of the mark. He demanded their tears give way to resolution, their empathy to action, their victimhood to victory. He didn't dissipate global support. He mobilized it and those whose camaraderie was phony fell away.
Bush has not abused democracy, he has mobilized it. Nor has he shattered checks and balances, he has carried them into action. He is not overreaching the powers of his office, he is using them.
Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Churchill all looked different to contemporaries than they do to historians. FDR seemed to emerge as a wartime leader only after Pearl Harbor rescued him from a time of vacillation and indecision during the late 1930s. Lincoln appeared to be weak and unable to harness the moral issue of slavery to the task of winning the war. Churchill seemed an imperialist and an empire builder pining for war in a time of peace.
But history has a different view of all three.
Bush lives amid the ambivalence of democracy, but we are watching a Roosevelt, a Lincoln, or a Churchill in the making.