I have gone cold turkey off all political news since Election Night, but I got an email pointing me to Jay Nordlinger's account of his hour recently with President Bush. The maddening thing about Bush has been that he is not a poor communicator per se but is a poor communicator qua President. I still believe that history will be kinder to him than the press and contemporary historians have been, but also that history will chronicle the erosion of America's moral superiority and Bush's futile fight against it.
"You know, I don’t follow these opinion polls. But I will tell you, people want to come to America. I will tell you, America is respected. Our values are cherished — because they’re not our values; they’re universal values.”
What should be watched “over these coming decades is the prevalence of moral relativism, which is manifested during my presidency, saying, ‘Bush is imposing his values.’ [He fairly shouts this.] Well, if you believe these are Bush’s values or American values, then you don’t believe in the universality of certain values. And so I firmly believe that our respect is strong in the world. I’d rather be respected than liked. And we are respected, and our values are cherished, and the lines are long to come to America.”
A word about popularity: You can be popular, but “at what price”? “You can get short-term popularity in the Middle East if you want, by blaming all problems on Israel. That’ll make you popular. You can be popular in certain salons of Europe if you say, ‘Okay, we’ll join the International Criminal Court.’ I could have been popular if I’d said, ‘Oh, Kyoto is the way to deal with the environmental problem.’ That would have made me liked. It would have made me wrong, however. And, ultimately, you earn people’s respect by articulating a set of principles and standing by them.
“You know, popularity comes and goes. It just does. It comes and goes for an individual or a nation [sing it, brother]. But principles are enduring.”
Nordlinger's recap is worth reading it its entirety.
On Harriet Miers:
“I think it was important to nominate, not only a person who’d be a great judge, but someone who was not a part of the judicial-nominee club. She went to SMU Law School. I recognize it’s not Harvard or Yale — those are great law schools — but you can also have great lawyers come from” other places. (It helps to have gone to Harvard and Yale, as Bush did — in the opposite order — if you want to talk this way.)
More on SCOTUS:
I mean, I think of Miguel Estrada, unbelievably brilliant, and it’s a fabulous American story . . .”
Me: “That’s why he had to be stopped.”
“Yes. Oh, absolutely. But I look at it from his perspective, not theirs. And his perspective is, I want to serve, I want to be in a position to exercise my intellect, I want to help my adopted country . . . And yet he just got hung out there. It was very discouraging, I’m sure, to him and to others who watched the process.”
On communication during war:
“When the president speaks during a time of war, I’ve found there to be four broad constituencies:
1. The people -- that this war is necessary in the interests of our national security.
2. The enemy -- that we will pursue them, find them, and justice will prevail.
3. The Iraqis -- that we are there as long as necessary, or they'll run to the nearest militia for protection.
4. The military -- that we will honor their service and sacrifice by winning the war.
I just sent this email to the author.
Thanks Jay for your Dec 10 Impromptus. I have gone cold turkey off all political news -- TV, radio, and print -- since Election Night. But I saw the link to your piece in yesterday's NRO Digest and knew you would be a reliable lift. You present Bush as the man I thought he was, the man so many of us thought he was before he disappeared, and you remind us why we voted for him, twice, and why we were right to do so, twice. Some future wartime President will have pictures of George W. Bush on his wall.