Monday, February 17, 2003


Whether Bush is the worst president of all time, as some have recently asserted, only time can tell, of course. But, I don't think it is too soon to say he is, so far, a failed president.

The lack of cooperation from the UN, the worldwide demonstrations that took place over the past weekend, and the widening rift between the U.S. and Europe all have one cause; inadequate, incompetent, inarticulate and failed American leadership.

Prime Minister Blair, along with many others, including, to name only a few who have spoken articulately on the matter over the last year; Sen. John McCain, Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. John Kerry, former President Clinton and former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore, is right about the need to, and the potential benefits to the region and the world of, liberating the people of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

But Blair, in his efforts to gain the support of his own people and other European leaders, is unfortunate in being saddled in partnership with George W. Bush and his coterie of advisors who, even prior to 9/11, appear to have seen Iraq primarily as an opportunity to nakedly demonstrate American power, rather than as a problem for the world, with the best interests of the Iraqi people foremost in mind, to solve together. Or, more recently and most ignobly, as a diversion from the unresolved situation with Al Queda and the unfinished business in Afghanistan. Or, worst of all, as a handy political tool for blunting criticism of domestic policy.

Instead of leading the world through demonstrations of sacrifice and commitment, this administration has relied on bribery and bullying. Instead of appealing to mankind's most moral instincts, it has arrogantly assumed that it alone possesses "moral clarity." Instead of articulating the world's hopes for cooperation and peace, it has threatened "pre-emption" and allowed its advisors and supporters to brag about "imperium." Instead of laying out the facts it has cynically manipulated them -- and needlessly sown distrust where there should have been support.

What the worldwide reaction to these failures demonstrates to all but the most blindly partisan is this: to fulfill its leadership role in the world America requires something much more informed, more articulate, more morally serious and less arrogant than President George W. Bush's "gut" and "instincts."

Bush may or may not be the "good man" his supporters proclaim him to be -- and that he, like most of us, undoubtedly strives to be. But, he is not a good president.

It may be true that a quick win in Iraq -- especially if it can be obtained without imposing great suffering and devastation on the Iraqi people -- will silence today's war critics. But it will not capture Osama, weaken and neutralize Al Queda, address the issue of weapons proliferation in Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, immediately lead to a peaceful blossoming of democracy in the Middle East, or make the world safer. All of those things will require both long-term commitment and gaining the region's and the world's cooperation and trust -- things for which this administration has, so far, demonstrated no talent.


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