Jewish World Review July 3, 2002 / 23 Tamuz, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | As Bush became president, I turned to America's best Republican political consultant, Charlie Black, for a line on our new leader. "Always remember," Black told me, "that he's his mother's son."
Mother's son or Father's boy? The conflict between Bush's maternal and paternal DNA seems almost to define the zigs and zags of his presidency and the political ups and downs which they trigger. When Bush is his mother's son, his instinctive, unequivocal focus on right and wrong endears him to America. But when his father's DNA takes over, a more cautious president emerges, blown to and fro by advisors, anxious to form diplomatic coalitions, sensitive to the nuances of diplomacy even at the price of moral clarity.
There are some who attribute the alternation between Bush The Cautious Diplomat and Bush the Moral Avenger to shifting influence of Secretary of State Colin Powell or of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But the media always gets it wrong. It over-emphasizes the conflicts among staff in an Administration because it has more access to the hired help than it does to the main man. The true conflicts are not waged among advisors or Cabinet secretaries, they rage, rather, in the mind of the president himself as he balances priorities and sorts out his will.
The two strains in Bush's personality are evident as we trace back the president's public life. Candidate Bush's repudiation of the Republican dogma that the federal government had no place in education policy and his demand for a compassionate strain in GOP ideology clearly echoed the almost impetuous moral clarity that America so loved in his mother. But when Bush lost the New Hampshire primary to Senator John McCain and shrunk back behind the shelter of party orthodoxy to rebound in South Carolina, it was his father's heritage that seemed to predominate.
In the early days of his presidency, as Bush retreated on environmental issues like arsenic in water, carbon dioxide in the air, and the Kyoto treaty on global warming, he seemed to be following his father's well worn path to a one term presidency. Elected with fewer popular votes than Gore, he seemed to define the limits of his popularity with a series of unpalatable concessions to polluters and industry.
But on 9-11, his Mother's genes took over. Boldly emerging in a time of national worry, anxiety, and confusion, he summoned the nation with a clarion call for war against global terror. Rejecting the more narrow approach of only finding and punishing the guilty, he vowed to eliminate a technique of warfare, just as poison gas and nuclear war had been proscribed in the previous century. With a clarity, confidence, and sureness that belied his earlier image, he attacked the Talliban in its Afghan lair and toppled one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
But then, the moral ambiguity and diplomatic caution more typical of his father seemed to hold sway as he entered the quagmire of the Middle East without a moral compass. When Bush seemed to equate Israeli retaliation with Palestinian provocation and differentiated between Israel's right to strike back at terror and our own, he lost the moral clarity which had so animated him after 9-11. Stressing harmony over justice and cessation of hostilities over the pursuit of righteousness, he seemed to lose his way as he groped toward the settlement that had befuddled forty years of presidents. Buffeted by European demands for a greater American role in restraining Israel, he heeded the demands of Euro-skeptics whose latent anti-Semitism has never been far from the surface.
Then Bush denounced Arafat clearly and boldly, once again seizing the lead in the Middle East and lending his policy the moral clarity that makes it so attractive. Moma was back!!
Will Bush attack Iraq and finish the job his father left undone? Or will
an over concern for European sensibilities rob him of the decisive action
America craves and the world needs? Whose DNA will prevail?
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