Like many Republicans, I want to like Bush but I don't see enough of him to let me. And for sure he has failed on that component of Leadership 101 that demands frequent repetition of the leader's vision. But nonetheless, I am still audacious enough to believe that history will smile upon Bush as a leader who made principled decisions that he thought were right, in the face of extreme political opposition.
Fred Barnes explains how the surge came to be.
The 20-minute speech on January 10, 2007, was not Bush's most eloquent. And it wasn't greeted with applause. Democrats condemned the surge and Republicans were mostly silent. Polls showing strong public opposition to the war in Iraq were unaffected.
But the president, as best I could tell, wasn't looking for affirmation. He was focused solely on victory in Iraq. The surge may achieve that. And if it does, Bush's decision to spurn public opinion and the pressure of politics and intensify the war in Iraq will surely be regarded as the greatest of his presidency.
There are different kinds of leadership authority. Leading purely from "positional authority," based on one's title or rank or position in the organizational hierarchy, is generally regarded to be weak and unsustainable. But when your rank is POTUS and you're gone in Jan 2009 in any case, one could argue that he has made greatly effective use of his positional authority. His (many) opponents could (and do) argue that he has overstepped his authority, but the Founders put a lot of authority, on purpose, in the singular person of the presidency and Congress established term limits post-FDR to limit the amount of damage that any one president could do.