Saturday, September 03, 2005

W at the eye of the storm--and Clinton

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you...
--From "If" by Rudyard Kipling

In the four years since September 11th, there have been many opportunities to recall Rudyard Kipling's definition of manhood. In the high winds of hysteria that have howled out of the hate-Bush quadrants of the political landscape, W has often seemed the calm at the eye of the storm.

So with this week: while some have tried to blame the hurricane on global warming, it turns out that major hurricanes in the twentieth century peaked at 10 in the period 1940-1950, dropping to 5 per decade for the 1980s and 1990s. While New Orleans procrastinated on evacuating her citizens, the mandatory evacuation order came about only after President Bush personally called the governor and mayor asking for it to be done. And while some were trying to politicize the tragedy, the President was organizing his father and Bill Clinton for a bi-partisan effort to help the hurricane victims.

In which effort President Clinton showed his class: when a smart-aleck reporter began playing politics with the aid network, President Clinton stepped in smartly to defend the federal response to the crisis.

Let me add that this has been characteristic of President Clinton throughout the post-September 11th period. Consider this classic interview with Larry King from 2003 when much of the news media was hyperventilating over the Sixteen Words:

And what I think — again, I would say the most important thing is we should focus on what’s the best way to build Iraq as a democracy? How is the president going to do that and deal with continuing problems in Afghanistan and North Korea?

We should be pulling for America on this. We should be pulling for the people of Iraq. We can have honest disagreements about where we go from here, and we have space now to discuss that in what I hope will be a nonpartisan and open way. But this State of the Union deal they decided to use the British intelligence. The president said it was British intelligence. Then they said on balance they shouldn’t have done it. You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. I mean, you can’t make as many calls as you have to make without messing up once in awhile. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now. That’s what I think.

Bravely and courageously done. It is possible to have a bi-partisan foreign policy--but it requires a Democratic party with more leaders like Bill Clinton.


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