Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Not our first rodeo

I caught the second half of Bush's post-election press conference today.

Say what you like about politicians, but one thing they almost always display is an uncommon ability to pick themselves up and dust themselves off, and to do it on what must be almost no sleep at all. Oh, and to at least mouth words, post-election, that make it sound as though working together will be possible, no matter what foul mud has been slung beforehand.

In addition to that, Bush seemed especially--and I know some of you might find this word odd in relationship to that particular person--but especially articulate and focused. His speech pattern, for example, was much more rapid than usual. Virtually gone was the strange hesitation that often ties and muddles his tongue. He spoke rapidly and forcefully, somewhat impatiently, mostly very graciously, and decisively. I heard more off-the-cuff humor than I usually do when he speaks.

Sometimes when bad blows finally come after a period of trying to avoid them, there's a calm that sets in. It's over; now move on. And this election must have been a pretty bad blow, although not a totally unexpected one (in a phrase that is sure to be trumpeted by the MSM, he called it a "thumping" despite the closeness of many of the races).

As most of you know, the focus of my support for Bush is his general approach to the war on Islamic jihadi totalitarianism. I have some quarrels with his domestic agenda, and some disagreements with details of how the aforementioned war has been handled. So I was heartened by two things: one was the resignation (and the acceptance thereof) of Secretary Rumsfeld, who's become a lightning rod for criticism. The other is that Bush is determined not to become a Gerald Ford.

Why the reference to Ford? He presided over the pulling of the plug in funding Vietnam, although "presided" is hardly what he did in terms of leadership. He abdicated, barely making any effort to stop Congress from cutting off all support from the South Vietnamese when a little (relatively speaking) might have gone a long way.

That's the only Vietnam analogy I tried to make here. I'm aware of vast differences between Vietnam and Iraq, and the bottom line is that Iraq is far more strategically important. I don't have quotes from Bush's press conference, but he made it clear that he is dedicated to staying the course in Iraq with a different approach. What a different approach means remains to be seen, and what Congress will do about it is unclear, but there's no question a course correction is needed.

Bush indicated we've been correcting our course right along. That's true, but we need more visible success. It's also true that the milblogs have been trumpeting our successes there right along, but most of America doesn't read milblogs (or blogs at all, for that matter). The nature of the beast is that people need something more visible to counter the body daily count, some measure of success that they can perceive and understand.

My biggest fear with this election has been that the Democrats in the "cut and run" camp will dominate. I'm hoping much of that was just campaign rhetoric, and that more sober minds will prevail now that the Democrats have won. After all, as Bush himself said when asked whether he could work with people like Pelosi who've dissed him previously in such vicious terms: that's politics; this isn't "my first rodeo."

A rodeo's a tough game. But it's a game. Politics may appear to be a game, and it's a rather nasty one at that. But it influences affairs of state and global events, which are more than a game. And after the rough and wild rodeo of a political campaign, the cowboys who have been thrown by the bucking broncos, as well as the ones who haven't, have to get up and get to work.

[ADDENDUM: Austin Bay makes some interesting points about what the change at Defense might signify. And I agree with this that Rumsfeld's "resignation" would have been more strategicially sound had it been accomplished before the election rather than after. It's been a while since much of anyone has been a Rumsfeld supporter--except for Bush, it seems, and the latter's loyalty to him in the face of bipartisan opposition has caused bipartisan resentment.]

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