Mike Magan is a former White House aide to George W. Bush and consultant with Media Intelligence Partners and Halas Strategies.
Winston Churchill once said that we are “two nations divided by a common language.” With the release of President Bush’s book, “Decision Points,” this famous quote came to mind, especially while listening to various media outlets focus more on American colloquialisms than the underlying fact that President Bush approached governing the United States with decisive actions. Putting principal above popularity meant he did not succumb to what so many politicians do today; governing by what they call consensus. Or, to put it another way, the lowest common denominator.
Perhaps even more interesting is the continued desire by many to paint the former President as a “good ole boy” from Texas who lacked finesse dealing with the Washington political elite. To add to this they might as well say that this is the case for the United States in general, with the exception of San Francisco and Hollywood, where those who live there are “enlightened.”
This is also particularly true within liberal European countries that continue to rely on the U.S. for global security, and yet feel free to imply that the previous administration had an axe to grind and if no one joined them then they would go it alone. It is a shame these political leaders and opinion makers don’t actually take the time to appreciate the sacrifices made by men and women of the US armed forces. Men and women who are willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for what we in the West believe is a universal human right: freedom. The freedom to express one’s opinion, vote, worship, and the list goes on.
Just maybe, pundits and journalists should take the former President at his word when he says that he has no wish to shape his legacy, rather, provide personal insight into how he made decisions. As he says, it will be many years before anyone can provide a considered judgement on his presidency. It is pity that in the world of instant and wrong-headed verdicts, it is pity that more people don’t follow his advice – and indeed that of the former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai who, asked his opinion of the French Revolution, thought it too early to tell.
No one should forget that 9/11 and 7/7 changed the world, that thousands of innocent people lost their lives or loved ones on a beautiful autumn day. Today’s coverage focused on waterboarding – disproportionate when one considers the vast scope of the challenges that faced Bush a year into his presidency and the advent of the global war on terror. It is like remembering Churchill for sending the troops to break a miner’s strike or forgetting Reagan’s historic victory over Soviet Russia in the Cold War but harping on about Iran-Contra.
President Bush served his country for eight years. That’s right, the American people elected him to two terms. His administration also championed compassionate conservatism, which resulted in the largest increase in foreign assistance since World War Two, combating HIV and malaria in Africa, and the American people’s generous response to a global tsunami and devastating earthquakes. A president who would meet with human rights activists fighting for freedom in North Korea, Sudan, Egypt, China, Zimbabwe, and Burma.
It is true, these decisions did take much thought and much deliberation. One should take time to read the book. Who knows, you may have a better understanding of the United States and the executive branch. The truth is today’s cheap headlines matter far less than the verdict of future generations.