Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bush Failed the Leadership Test

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the years since, Bush's "performance" has been praised not just by the usual suspects (Noonan, Novak, Safire, Sully, Fox News, the 101st Keyboarders) but also pundits like Lil' Russ, Tweety, Richard Cohen, to name a few. They all lavished such praise on him you would have thought he had performed a miracle. All this nonsense was about how glad they were that Bush was President because of his resolve, uber-resolve, made me want to vomit. I wasn't impressed by anything he did around 9/11, including the bullhorn at ground zero, because I thought it was automatic. It was, to borrow a phrase, a slam dunk.

Now we have the real test of leadership. In a world torn by the politics of war, a world often divided not just by ideology but religious identity, Bush, the leader of the free world, had a rare and unique opportunity to show true sincerity, true compassion, and true leadership. He didn't even have to get in a plane and fly to Asia. But he needed to do more than hunker down on the ranch clearing brush. He had to do more than send out the second string press secretary to talk to the public (and press). He had the opportunity to tell all of Asia that America hears all people regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. America will be with the people of all nations especially in their hour of need, whatever it takes. He had the chance to show who we are as a nation: more than about war, weapons, and oil.

It tells us a lot about both the President and the people advising him that his reaction has been so underwhelming. It is sad that we have to see tragedy as moments also of opportunity but that is what it is. That nobody apparently has the sense or clout to tell the President to fly back to Washington to make an appearance from the White House, to start the process of organizing relief efforts before resuming his vacation is sad. It is tragic that the best we got out of this moron is some statements read by Trent Duffy, the second-string press secretary, and a brief appearance in an airplane hangar with presidential pooch Barney in tow. He missed a golden chance--that we will never have back--to lead, not be in charge, but to really lead, during the recovery from a disaster whose depths we may never fully grasp.

Bush blew the bunny. He failed the leadership test, the true measure of the man.