- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

This is a very glum time for President Bush. Cock your ear toward Washington and what do you hear? Democrats, even sensible ones such as Sens. John Francois Kerry and Joe Biden, the admirer of British political oratory, adjudge him hopeless. Now even conservatives weigh in. My own colleague at the American Spectator, The Prowler, writes that “at this stage of the game … this administration is [probably] done for.” Alas, time to amble back to the ranch, George.

Or is it? Every normal presidency in recent decades has been through times like this. I say normal because at least one, the Clinton presidency, and possibly a second one, the Nixon presidency, were decidedly abnormal. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the present president, every president has found himself occasionally forlorn and rejected. Yet, with the exceptions of Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson (remember, we have placed Presidents Clinton and Nixon in a class by themselves), these presidencies have mostly been successful. Well, that might not exactly be true of the presidency of John F. Kennedy, but maybe he too should be in a class by himself.

Despite the gloom surrounding the White House, it is too early to predict this president’s success or failure. He is engaged in a war, and wars are always fraught with vicissitudes, failed predictions, and setbacks, even for the victorious side.

Who announced all U.S. troops would be out of Germany by 1947? That was Franklin D. Roosevelt at Yalta in 1945. Why was Washington so desperate to bring the Red Army into our war with Japan as late as winter 1945? We had no clear idea of how effective the atomic bomb would be against the Japanese.

Most of the criticism of this administration’s execution of war in Iraq is ignorant, opportunistic and hypocritical. Consider Boy Clinton’s recent eruption of bosh, claiming the president acted precipitously and “with no real urgency, no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction.” Thitherto Mr. Clinton has made scores of statements on the public record contradicting these partisan judgments, which make this famed perjurer once again a candidate for the Hypocrites’ Hall of Fame.

One reason it is too early to count out this admittedly struggling president is that his opposition is in disarray, greater disarray than it has been in years. The Democrats have no program, no coherent ideas, and no leader who is not perilously controversial. I have in mind the mesmeric Hillary, who mesmerizes Democrats, is repellent to Republicans, and unattractive to most independents. She is the only first lady to suffer the disapproval of a majority of Americans since pollsters began polling first-lady approval ratings. She is, aside from her husband, the most scandal-prone person in American politics.

Another reason it is too early to count this president out is that he, and his fellow Republicans for that matter, bring out the worst in the Democrats. And at their worst the Democrats are very unappealing. In their rebarbative lecturing to Judge John Roberts they did themselves no good with average voters.

Most Americans know it is repugnant to boast of one’s own virtue. By strutting their moral superiority over Judge Roberts and condemning him as inhumane with no supporting evidence, they looked like a panel of frauds. That is the Democrats’ problem in a profession that attracts fakers; they are brazen fakes. Voters are not always unaware of this.

Blessed by such unimpressive opponents this president still has a good chance of ending his presidency in three years as a success. Much depends on the economy, which is robust. Much more depends on his most historic initiative, which means: victory in Iraq, suppression of terror and the spread of peace in the Middle East. Developments in Egypt, Lebanon, and Libya suggest peace might be spreading.

Whether democracy can spread, as is the administration goal, is a question beyond me, but who can scoff at the goal? The spread of democracy has been an American ideal going back to President Woodrow Wilson, and presidents most fervent on behalf of democracy have usually been Democrats.

In foreign policy and even in many of his domestic initiatives, this Republican president has achieved a neat trick. He has assumed policies usually associated with the most honored Democrats. The almost unprecedented anger against him is the anger once exhibited by Midwestern and small-town Republicans as they watched Franklin Roosevelt pass them by.

The shrieks heard from the Democrats these days remind me of one of my most deeply held beliefs about politics, to wit: Rather than being shaped by principles or by interests, most political issues are shaped by mental illness, namely the need of some citizens to be perpetually angry.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His latest book is “Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.”

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