Listen Up, Bush-Haters
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Sat Mar 13 21:57:42 MST 2004
The Free Congress Commentary - George W: What You Didn't See On "Meet The Press"
By Paul M. Weyrich
My first cousin Kathy is without a doubt the smartest member of our family. While I am a college dropout, she has two doctorates and teaches in the California university system.
She is a very devout Christian, and takes her church and its teachings seriously. Whenever we discuss moral issues we are always in complete agreement. But when we discuss political issues it is a completely different story.
It was true of our respective fathers. Both were German immigrants. My father came here first and later helped his brother to come too. Both started out as ardent Democrats but my father became a Taft Republican, although he was a blue-collar worker all his adult life.
Kathy's father remained a union-oriented Democrat until the day he died. She carries on in that tradition. Plus, of course, the university crowd she and her teacher husband associate with are not exactly right-of-center.
I mention this because I wish Kathy could have been with me as I visited with the President of the United States for over an hour last week. You see Kathy has bought the line that W is stupid. She really thinks he is not qualified to be President of the United States. I don't know if Kathy would have agreed with the President on issues or not, but for over 30 minutes, with no cue cards, President Bush laid out before a small group of us from conservative think tanks his reasoning in the conduct of foreign policy.
It was the most lucid, most candid, most articulate exposition of why a President is doing what he is doing that I have ever heard in my 38 years in this town. There were people who have previously served in the White House and the cabinet there in the Roosevelt room. Even they were amazed by W's performance.
I say 'performance' not in the acting sense, but just the way he could string together a seemingly unrelated series of foreign policy issues into a tapestry that made sense to everyone present. "I wish we could have put THIS on television", the head of a major foundation remarked after the meeting. I wondered aloud how anyone who could have wowed this group, some of whom have been and continue to be constructive critics of this President, could have given such a low grade performance on "Meet the Press".
I am afraid if Kathy watched Tim Russert ask W wholly predictable questions and saw his repetitive and somewhat non-responsive answers, she might have been reinforced in her view of this President. Had she been with us, even she would have had to admit, regardless of where she might have come down on some of the matters he touched on, that he was brilliant.
Midge Decter, my favorite neocon, used to call Ronald Reagan "the 20 minute President." In meetings or dinners with him, he was impressive for 20 minutes. Thereafter, the longer you had to speak with him the less impressive he became. I agree with Midge. Don't get me wrong. I love Ronald Reagan and am grateful to him for what he did to undermine the Soviet Union. But I had many meetings with him during the eight years of his Presidency.
He would always come in bearing a stack of cards on which he had notes. He was a well trained actor so he could get through those notes most of the time as if he knew the subject. But once he exhausted the cue cards, he did not know much about the topic at hand. I am not suggesting here that Reagan was stupid either. It is just that I never got the impression that he was really on top of things.
Well, let me tell you, W is on top of things. A wide variety of challenges involving both foreign and domestic issues were thrown at this President in more than an hour's worth of dialogue. He was on top of just about everything.
By on top I don't just mean that he understood the question and could reply as if he knew what he was talking about. I mean this President was decisively in command of the facts of the situation in great and absolutely appropriate detail. In one case with which I am very familiar since I have been involved with the bills in both Houses of Congress, Bush knew exactly the status of the bill in the House as well as the Senate, how those bills differed from his position and what he intended to do about it.
This is not a likely topic to have come up in that meeting so it isn't as if he was just well prepped. No, once you see this President, without props, looking you straight in the eye, explain issue after issue then you know that this is a President who knows where he is going. Interestingly enough, I had written down some things where we had a different view or where he wanted to assure me that he did understand things I had questioned. Maybe it was a coincidence but, as he spoke of these three different matters, he looked right at me the entire time he addressed them. I think he knew very well who had said what about what in that room.
If anyone has doubts if W is ready for the upcoming campaign, let me assure all he is anxious to get going. Not until Super Tuesday did Bush for sure know who he was going to run against. While I don't think I would have let opponents attack me mercilessly for six months while answering them not, Bush has a sense of when it is appropriate to govern and when it is appropriate to campaign. It is time to "bring it on" now and I believe you will see a whole different Bush than you have in recent months.
I always felt that Bush '41 really didn't want a second term. If the voters had insisted he have one, then out of duty he would have served. Bush '43 does want a second term. He thinks he can accomplish much in the coming years. His goals are bold and somewhat surprising for a Republican President.
Yes, I do wish cousin Kathy could have seen W last week. Although happily married, she is still a Weyrich. She is stubborn as they come. But she is also very fair, a trait carried on from our respective fathers.
And knowing her as I do, I'll bet she would have walked out of that room and turned to me and said, "You're right. I no longer think President Bush is stupid. Of course, I think he is wrong on this and this and that, but he certainly is not dumb. As a matter of fact I would have to agree with you. He is brilliant. And if there is one thing I hate it is a brilliant conservative Republican".
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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