The President, Polls and Perseverance
August 15, 2005
Our Constitution’s framers understood that pure democracy was not conducive to good government, so they structured the government as a constitutional republic. Nothing better illustrates the wisdom of their decision than our current national turmoil concerning the war in Iraq.
Understanding human nature and the potential volatility of the people, they designed the government to insulate elected representatives from the fluctuating passions of the people whose unbridled, unchecked sentiments could otherwise lead to a self-destructive mobocracy.
Once elected, the representatives were not to govern by ever-changing polls but would be guided by their best judgment, subject to the deterrents of impeachment and the next election. There were also the institutional safeguards built into the Constitution, such as federalism, the separation of powers, narrow grants of power to and express limitations on government. These would naturally retard the pace of government and militate against the mischief of renegade politicians.
As prescient as the Framers were, it’s unlikely they could have foreseen the coming technological advances and information explosion that would arm a hostile media and opposition party with selective bad news and polling data with which to badger a president into submission.
It takes a strong person as president to withstand the temptation to sacrifice the long-term best interests of the nation by succumbing to the seduction of daily polls and their promise of immediate popularity upon obedience to the whimsical popular will.
We need look no further back in history than the Clinton years to see what happens when a president tends to govern by polls rather than principle. It was a formula for putting off serious problems — such as Al Qaeda and Social Security — when tackling them might bring you into disfavor.
By contrast, we can study the present Bush administration to see what happens when a president governs by principles and goals to which he has consistently pledged fidelity. It’s a formula for occasionally disastrous polling results, as we witnessed this week with reports of the president’s lowest-yet approval ratings.
The mainstream media are gloating about the president’s popularity free-fall, apparently oblivious to the damage they are inflicting on the nation with their ceaseless one-sided news coverage.
Democrat honchos, for their part, are basking in the public’s ostensible rejection of the president’s policies — on Iraq and Social Security, among others. Ultimately, though, the joke may be on them, since even during the president’s popularity slide, they have nothing constructive of their own to offer — no solutions, no plans — as witnessed by Democrat Party Boss Howard Dean’s virtual admission of same on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.”
All the while, President Bush remains unflappable and determined to achieve his stated goals. No matter how often Democrats accuse him of trying to destroy Social Security, he is intent on preserving it and preventing it from bankrupting the federal government, which is inevitable absent major reform. No matter what they throw at him on Iraq, from baseless allegations that he lied to get us into the war to charges that he is deliberately under-armoring the troops, he stays firm, notwithstanding reports he is losing resolve, trying to lower expectations or experiencing fissures in his administration.
Meanwhile, Democrat leaders want to have it both ways. Some say we should withdraw from Iraq. Others demand that we add many more troops, while simultaneously complaining about the enormity of the federal deficit (despite the recent good news on this front, by the way).
Democrats condemn the president for “nation building” and intermeddling, yet insist we micromanage the Iraqi constitutional drafting process to ensure American-type civil rights for women (which, of course, is laudable). Along with the press they shamelessly prop up and exploit a grieving mother to serve as a sympathetic vehicle to carry their inane conspiratorial charges against the president with total disregard for how that demoralizes our troops and undermines our cause.
There’s no denying we face enormous problems in the war on terror and in our quest to aid the Iraqis in launching a constitutional republic, neither of which lends itself to a magical, tidy solution. And there are legitimate issues to debate concerning both.
But the Democrats’ and media’s persistent sniping at the president to the point of abject partisan gamesmanship does not constitute good faith debate. Nor does it further our cause against this enemy, which is dedicated to destroying the West and restoring the glory of the caliphate to rule the world.
Which is why I’m grateful we have an action-oriented president who has the courage and inner-strength — which some, I believe, misinterpret as stubbornness — to persevere no matter how relentless the daily beating he receives in the press. And it’s another reason I’m thankful for the sagacity of the Framers for crafting a system that sought to give our leaders the latitude to operate in the long-term national interest.