What’s the Test of a True Leader — a Good President?

January 19, 2005

I’ve written often of the liberals’ pseudo-elevation of bipartisanship and compromise as the highest ends of a president. When a Republican is president, they talk ceaselessly of the need for bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle and other such psychobabble. You will never hear such nonsense from them when their soulmates are in office. You never heard them demand that Bill Clinton be more solicitous of the Republican position. And it wasn’t because Bill Clinton was bipartisan, either, because he was not.

In his piece today, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius argues that President Bush now has a “third chance be become a president who unites the country in adversity.” Ignatius writes:

The first was four years ago, when a divided America seemed hungry for the Bush of the 2000 campaign, the “compassionate conservative” who would govern from the center. He spurned that chance. The second came on Sept. 11, and he rose boldly to it, only to spend the unity he had forged on what proved to be a divisive war in Iraq.

The third opportunity begins tomorrow. A good start would be to reread the diary entry Bush’s father wrote the day after his own inauguration. “We’ve got to find ways to do this compromise, ‘kinder, gentler world.'”

There is so much wrong with these paragraphs it’s difficult to know where to begin. First, President Bush couldn’t have been more bipartisan in his approach to Ted Kennedy and his fellow ungracious Democrats. He gave them all they wanted and more on many, many issues and they took it, then spit right in his face. You’ll never hear liberals condemn their brethren in congress for their partisanship in the face of the president’s graciousness.

Next, under the liberals’ formulation there is no way the president could have qualified as bipartisan concerning the Iraq War unless he had decided never to attack Iraq — and this, even though many, many Democrats supported the Iraq War resolution. Why doesn’t a bipartisan affirmation of the president’s decision to go to war constitute a bipartisan approach to that war? Why is it considered divisive? The answer is that the Democrats were dragged kicking and screaming to this war and only approved it because the public was overwhelmingly for it.

The divisiveness from the war was a result, not of the president’s actions, of which the Democrats largely approved (on paper), but of the Democrats immediately beginning to badmouth the war effort in every imaginable way:

“We didn’t build a strong enough coalition. We caused collateral damage. We allowed looting of the museums. We were greeted as occupiers, not as liberators. Our ground troops moved too fast for our supply lines. We have alienated the United Nations, France, Germany and Russia. We diverted essential resources from pursuing Osama bin Laden. We didn’t plan for the peace. Bush implemented a back door draft. Democracy is not for everyone. We have alienated the entire Muslim world. We have made Iraq a terrorist breeding ground. Iraq is Vietnam. President Bush lied about “mission accomplished.” Bush lied about WMD. Bush lied about Saddam’s connection to 9/11 and to Al Qaeda in general. Bush established a permissive climate that led to torture and abuse of Iraqi liberties. Bush is destroying our civil liberties.” And on and on.

No, it was not President Bush, but the Democrats who have been divisive about the War against Iraq. Truth be told, they’ve been hyper-petty and divisive since before President Bush’s first inauguration, denying the legitimacy of his 2000 victory, and his very authority to govern. They have been conducting a four years war, which has now entered its second four year phase. Their duplicity and hypocrisy are modern marvels.

Finally, this whole notion that a president’s greatness lies in his ability to compromise and make a kinder, gentler world is simply naive and wrongheaded. We are not going to make the world love us. We are certainly not going to make the Muslims love us. Heck, we can’t even get the Democrats to work with us in our own country.

Just like so-called “diversity” isn’t the goal of higher education as do-gooder liberals would have you believe, compromise and bipartisanship aren’t the test of a great president or a true leader. President Bush will continue to pursue his agenda and history will judge him not on how well he gets along with implacable members of an opposition party who wouldn’t like them if he became their indentured servant. It will not judge him on how well our foreign enemies or other feckless former allies approve of our geopolitics. It will judge him on his leadership and the actions he takes pursuant to such leadership.