We’ve heard ad nauseam that George W. Bush has been misunderestimated, that he’s a lot smarter than his numbskull critics. But smarts is only the half of it. Last week he again demonstrated that his talents above all lie in his political presence — and lack of serious opposition.
The occasion was the World Series champion Boston Red Sox’ official visit at the White House, an ostensibly perfect bipartisan gathering, which included Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and others from New England’s congressional delegation. Bush’s remarks to the assembled crowd oozed with baseball charm, knowledge, and wit. He seems at home with baseball as he would be in Crawford. I especially liked his salute to Jimmy Piersall, who was in the audience, one of those representing, in Bush’s words, “a lot of great Boston Red Sox players that a lot of us grew up watching play…” The brilliant, tormented Piersall, of course, represented a lot more than that. Everyone who knew their baseball would have known. It was a special moment.
Kerry arrived while Bush was speaking. Ever the genial host, the president ad-libbed this boffo greeting:
“Senator, welcome. Good to see you. Only time I — I like to see Senator Kerry, except when we’re fixin’ to debate. If you know what I mean.”
Sure did. That pretty much summed up Bush: Friendly, folksy, lightly self-deprecating — and on top. Eat your heart out, Senator.
Bush, better than anyone, knows that the world loves a winner. Lately that’s allowed him to increase his lead over Democrats and other carpers substantially. A new favorite national pastime is to watch Bush’s critics fumbling for a way not to give him credit for recent stunning developments in the Middle East.
Few have the class of ancient socialist Daniel Schorr to admit straightforwardly, as Schorr did in the Christian Science Monitor, that Bush “may have had it right” when he said, before the invasion of Iraq, that “a liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region.”
By contrast, a grudging Democrat partisan like former Washington Post reporter and current Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. can’t even bring himself to concede that Bush spoke of freedom’s spread as a war aim. Instead, last Friday, he endorsed the canard that “Bush’s original reason for going to war — weapons of mass destruction fell apart,” giving way to “new claims that the war was really about spreading democracy” — which “have the feel of an after-the-fact rationale.”
After the fact? Anyone with an ounce of journalistic integrity knows very well that Bush announced democracy and freedom as a major war aim in a national televised address before the American Enterprise Institute on February 26, 2003, some three weeks before U.S. forces moved into Iraq.
Perhaps Dionne could blame his ignorance on his employers, which unlike the New York Times, say, failed to report on Bush’s speech to the AEI, though it must have become widely known given that the Post in coming months would make knowing references to it.
Perhaps Dionne can hide behind his noting that democracy-building just has “the feel” of an ex-post-facto rationale, even if it’s not. That’s one problem Democrats have in dealing with the world, in which “feelings” apparently trump clear thinking every time. Isn’t that the road to delusion? It appears to have become well-traveled.
Dionne saves his best for last, noting that the Democrats will grudgingly back off Iraq-related Bush-bashing “as long as events justify it.” Once the going gets tough, in other words, don’t count on us. And they wonder why Bush is league MVP and Cy Young Award winner while they’re stuck in the bleachers.