Saturday, January 06, 2007

I am going to try for two points here, before I try a long run on the Nordic Trak. First, Brent Scowcroft’s Friday contribution to the NYT essentially endorses a “surge” of troops, the new term for putting in the number of people (or closer to the number) that we should have had in the first place. And I am firmly in this camp. Now, maybe reality does not support the policy, maybe there are too few troops. And maybe this is too late (if it is also too little, then I don’t support it). But I think Iraq needs a period were violence is a lot more difficult. I don’t care if we bus Iraq trainees to Jordan or France, so they have to show up for training, for six weeks or six months or even two weeks. If, after a period of relative calm, the Iraqis can’t get it together, then we can say we (sorta) tried. But right now we are relying on the restraint of Iraqi insurgents, since we have too few troops in country, and that’s pretty silly.

The mania for Gerald Ford retrospectives goes on, and I want to throw my two cents in. We need a man like Ford today, but not particularly as President. Far more we need him as Speaker of the House or Senate Majority leader. I am still not reconciled to the notion that the President needs to be a bully, but I am coming to realize that the President needs to try to set an agenda, and you need to speak out to do that. I don’t know how Ford worked exactly in the House, but I believe he was one of those old time operators who worked without an agenda except to serve his district and his party, over the long haul. That means making deals with the other side time and time again. If you have to reneg on the deal, you have to be able to explain it. This is the thing, though. A reporter on Washington Week told the story of how Ford, as president, made a point of inviting George McGovern to a White House Dinner. McGovern remarked that he had not been to the White House in either the Johnson or Nixon years, and Ford replied simply that he knew that. And that is a fine thing, in fact it reminds me (in contrast) of Cheney’s famous use of the F-word with Pat Leahy. Cheney apparently didn’t spend enough time in the House to know that you deal with these people again and again (and now Pat Leahy is chair of Senate Judiciary). But at the risk of sounding contradictory, I think Ford was too far in the direction of conciliator. Some blog I read (Tube City? The Conversation?) suggested Ford was a best an average President. I have agree with the sentiment if not the reasons. I think was unused to the spotlight, was maybe more of a behind the scenes guy. Well, if you are President I think you have staff for the behind the scenes stuff. I remember someone saying the Clinton often struck people as the smartest guy in the room. If he paid attention to you, you felt the weight of it and the sense of gratification (that a smart guy thinks you idea is good). I have heard similar things, strangely, about Nixon. Obviously it would be different with Reagan or JFK, but a similar sense of gratification that such a charismatic person would care about your opinion. Ford lacked the kind of ego that helps us pay attention to the President. And dare I say it, the President needs to be cheerleader in chief, needs to be able to get enough of us excited or motivated about things. Lincoln obviously had that, as well as an exquisite sense of timing (eg, a majority of us elected him to keep the Union together, later a majority of us supported freeing the slaves). The current Bush gained the ability to convince a thin majority of us that he felt strongly about our safety after 9/11, the ’02 midterms and ’04 general election show us that. But since he linked our safety to success in Iraq, and defined success in Iraq only loosely as a democracy (identical to ours?), he seems to have lost power as cheer leader in chief.
One full page of Word, single space, that’s enough. Off to Nordic Trak.

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