THE MAN AT 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE
By Andy Weddington
Friday, 16 January 2009
It is lonely at the top—the very top—and no man (no woman yet) knows it better than he who has occupied the Oval Office. In four days—Barak Hussein Obama—will be the 44th man in the history of the United States to come to terms with true loneliness. For it will be he, and he alone, who will shoulder responsibility for making difficult decisions—decisions of national and international impact that will bear all sorts of foreseen and intended actions and outcomes and unpredictable yet inevitable unintended consequences. Only then will we all begin to see the stuff of which Mr. Obama is truly made.
No man is perfect. Not even our president. Every single one—all forty-three—made mistakes and President Bush certainly made his share. But even his harshest critics must pause and admit that he did a formidable job responding to the unprovoked attack on our homeland nearly seven and half a years ago. His ‘untiring, unfaltering, unfailing’ multi-pronged response to the despicable act of cowardice against our civilian populace that killed thousands and disrupted daily life in America—at least for a while—redefined modern warfare.
President Bush did not threaten—he calmly but firmly and with steely-eyed, unblinking determination stared into the eyes of evil and served notice, “…we are coming to get you…” To others he was blunt and crystal clear, “…you are either with us or against us.” He directed two simple words to the U.S. military, “Be ready.” And then the fight was on. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. And since that numbing, awful day—11 September 2001—President Bush has not wobbled in his declarations and his promise and resolve to take the fight to the enemy. Though our military might was overpowering in Afghanistan and Iraq, devastating force was still delivered with considerable restraint and technological precision. Had our force not been controlled, the two countries could easily have been wiped off the face of the earth and rather quickly. The Taliban was crushed in short order; though Afghanistan is today a festering sore that has garnered our attention and engagement. Order will be restored. The war in Iraq is, for all intents and purposes, won. Al Qaeda has been decimated and what remnants remain is little more than a disorganized mob of hoodlums on the run—with their communications, finances, and leadership in shambles. And without hiccup the war on terror continues with all sorts of warriors quietly and methodically hunting, capturing, and killing those who aim to do us harm. Good riddance.
Only a man of sound moral compass, conviction, and great character knowing he was doing what was right could persevere while abandoned by many in his own party and by a faction of the public with the attention span and patience of a bratty toddler. Only a man of sound moral compass, conviction, and great character would willingly expose himself to dangers in keeping with those dangers being faced by the young men and women he sent to war. That President Bush ordered Air Force One flown into Baghdad numerous times—particularly when the country was a festering rat’s nest of danger—says far more than any written or spoken words could possibly say about his character and courage. Our men and women in uniform know about danger—in training and war—and respect and follow leaders that assume the same degree of personal risk. It is not recklessness. It is “follow me” leadership. President Bush—the Commander in Chief—led by example.
Yes, President Bush is solely responsible for sundry matters that went awry during his watch. Many others were accountable and, quite frankly, failed the president and in turn us—we the people—whom they swore to serve. But those matters, albeit important, pale in comparison to the first and foremost responsibility of the presidency—to protect the United States—to keep us safe. That there has not been a single act of terror on our homeland during the remaining tenure of the Bush presidency says volumes. Bravo to President Bush for recognizing that he, and he alone, was ultimately responsible for our safety and taking the necessary and highly unpopular actions to see to it. Despite the constant criticism and downright disrespectful name-calling and mockery from a plethora of idiot "experts," smug socialites, self-absorbed actors, entertainers, and rock stars, bloviating “news” personalities and a fickle public, President Bush pressed on. That, America, is good old-fashioned leadership—and loyalty to country. Something we could use a great deal more of throughout all sectors of our land.
President Bush, with class and humbleness, returned sound morals, conviction, character, and courage to the country’s highest executive office. As reward, may he never again be lonely, enjoy his soon-to-be status as private citizen, and may history—one day—fairly assess and favorably recognize his extraordinary service.
Come Tuesday, with left hand resting on Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Bible and raised right hand, Mr. Obama will swear to us all: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Once that single, thirty-five words of a sentence is uttered, President Obama will be responsible to the American people for all he does and fails to do. All else aside, he had damn sure better keep us safe.