Saturday, October 22, 2005

Peggy Noon on "How Bush can save Bush"

B.A. Higgins of A Certain Slant of Light links to the emininet sage of MSM, Peggy Noonan

Ms. Noonan's thesis is simple: The modern Presidency can shake up even strong-personality Presidents like George W. Bush. That means even strong leaders in the office make mistakes--often doozies, at that! The good news for the President is that he has reformed himself before. He made the decision in 1986, when he turned 40, to change the fundamental way in which he lived. His commitment, and the humility that made it possible, saved his family and allowed him to achieve immense professional success. Ms. Noonan believes Mr. Bush needs to call upon this power of self-reflection and humility once more, this time to save another family:
You see where I'm going. All presidents have personalities and all presidential personalities become at least somewhat disoriented by the very nature of the modern presidency. However. George W. Bush showed real humility when he made his big change 19 years ago, and one suspects it is whatever bedrock humility that remains behind the smirk that can help him turn his fortunes around now.

Once again there's a family in crisis, and it's conservatism. He can let it break up, or let it wither under his watch. Or he can change. Just as he learned at 40 that to keep his family he had to become part of something larger than himself, he should realize as he approaches 60 that he has to become part of something larger if he is to save his administration. And that "something larger" is a movement that has been building for half a century, since before Barry Goldwater. The president would be well advised to look at the stakes, see what's in the balance, judge the strengths and weaknesses of his own leadership, and get back to the basics of conservatism. Which again would take humility.
The ancient Greeks reflected on the curious and excessive pride of the man that considers his own opinion as divine revelation. They called such pride Hubris; it often marked the protagonists of Greek Tragedies. Oedipus Rex comes to mind as one example. The President has certainly displayed the characteristics of a man consumed by Hubris. Ms. Noonan offers the following summary of how his "think-big" moments backfired:
The president is like anyone else: He can look back at the last few years and see that he's made mistakes. Who hasn't? Mistakes of judgment, mistakes of approach. Some of the mistakes in the president's case would have grown out of human miscalculation. Others perhaps grew out of vanity, of a largeness of ego. It's not hard to make a list. There were mistakes of judgment, such as Social Security. Mr. Bush decided to reform the bedrock entitlement of modern America in even though, while most thought reform important, few thought it urgent. Why would he do this? And in the middle of a war and an uncertain economic climate? I'm George Bush and I only do big things!

There were mistakes of . . . perhaps philosophy is the word. He will declare democracy now, for all the world, the end of history and the beginning of an era of endless bliss. Why? George Bush is a Texan, and Texans dream big.

He will make a series of decisions disappointing the very people who've stayed up all night working for him and literally praying for him, and do it at a time when a strong base is the only thing that scares off jackals of all kinds. Why? George Bush gambles big.
Unlike Oedipus Rex, Mr. Bush has not placed himself beyond redemption. He can still change the destiny of his presidency. And he possesses the humility and self-reflection to do so.

For the sake of his legacy, and the lives he affects--and may affect for generations--, I pray that he does!