Friday, May 16, 2008

The Compassionate Conservative President

"Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever. And I will carry this. It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end."
- President Bush in a speech before a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

In the Rose Garden a few days later ...
"The American people have got to understand that when I held up that badge, I meant it. This war on terrorism is my primary focus."

President George W. Bush holds the badge of a police officer killed in the September attacks. "And I will carry this," said President Bush during his address to Congress Sept. 20. "It is the police shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center.

In light of the recent criticism regarding President Bush's golfing statement (blogged by Curt, here), I thought I'd type out this excerpt from Robert Draper's "Dead Certain". He was given unprecedented access to key figures in the Bush White House, but certainly doesn't write a pro-Bush narrative. Supporters and detractors can find quite a bit in these pages that they will like and dislike.

Beginning on Chapter 11, Pg 225 of Robert Draper's Dead Certain:
Bush had listened, had professed to understand the consequences. Now he had to live with them. That "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended" was, by 2004, thoroughly beside the point. Far more American troops had been killed since that "Mission Accomplished" moment than before it. The mission- to rid the world of menace in Iraq- was far from accomplished, and the toll it exacted was there for him to see, every time he visited a wounded soldier or the families of the fallen.

No one can force a president to make such visits. But, as Andy Card had warned him, this was part of a commander in chief's job description, and Bush did not run from it. The task became a part of his routine whenever his travels took him near a military hospital. Because such moments couldn't be a perfunctory meet-and-greet, but instead had to last as much as twenty minutes for each family, the visits taxed his schedule. They also sapped Bush of his emotional reserves, such that the staff knew not to schedule a major public event for him afterward. He invariably cried during such encounters; and though, as some staffers would theorize, Bush's ability to emote freely enabled him to carry on untormented, the spectacle of maimed young men and women, and of sobbing mothers, would scar anyone's heart.

Sometimes Card joined his boss; sometimes a warm body from the press shop stood nearby. Joe Hagin nearly always accompanied Bush- though really, this was a lonely moment, the man who sent Americans into harm's way now confronting the grimness of that act. It was hard for others to appreciate this. Later, in the summer of 2004, Bush was conducting a final run-through of his convention speech, in a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, in the presence of Rice, Karen Hughes, Card, Rove, Gerson, and Ed Gillespie. He came to an emotionally charged part at the end of the speech in which he acknowledged the somberness of these visits: "I've held the children of the fallen who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their mom or dad."

Karen and Rice both began to cry when he read the line- or tried to read it: Bush was starting to cry as well. Gillespie whispered to Gerson, "Do we really have to say this line?"

When Gerson spoke up and said, "Mr. President, it's very important that we say this line to show that we understand what's going on," Bush angrily cut him off.

"We don't have to say this line," he snapped. "I have to say this line."

To the wounded, he asked where they were from and what they liked to do. When it seemed the thing to do, he would crack a joke. Without fail, he thanked them for their service and told them that they made him proud. Often, they told their president that they would like to go back to combat again. Bush would try not to choke up as he indicated that they had already served enough.

To those who had lost a son or a daughter, he could offer no levity. Bush hugged them and wept with them. Occasionally, a family would refuse at the last minute to see the man who had prosecuted this lethal war. Or they would get in his face: "You killed my son! How could you?"

"Your son gave his life for his country," was all he could say in reply. Or: "Your son was a hero."

Far more often, they thanked him: Our son died for something he believed in. And this was both a humbling and an emboldening thing to hear- though perhaps not as much as the most common refrain of all, usually spoken with searing eye contact:

Don't let my son die in vain.
The next paragraphs, to the end of the chapter, covers President Bush's meeting with Staff Sgt. Michael McNaughton from the 769th Engineer Battalion of the Louisiana National Guard, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It's a detailed account. If you don't know who McNaughton is and the story about his meeting with President Bush....well,

It doesn't bother me (as much) that there are those who disagree with President Bush's decisions, judgment, policies; but what does bother me, is the notion that he is an evil, corrupt, uncaring man.

U.S. President George W. Bush tears up during a ceremony to present the Medal of Honor posthumously to Navy SEAL Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, April 8, 2008.

One final word (citing from the Huffington Post, of all places):

When the White House called my wife, they said she wasn't allowed to tell even my other son or daughter that we were invited to meet the President. They didn't want the press to know, and said the President didn't want the press to know. If it would have leaked out, we would not have had the meeting."

Which is telling. It belies the complaints of those who think the President has somehow politicized the situation regarding those who have died in Iraq.

Cross-posted at Flopping Aces

Related post:
Take Two Conservative Aspirins with that Liberal Kool-Aid, and Call Me in the Morning!

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Blogger Karen said...

President Bush cries. His father cries. I love that about them. Mostly, because it is honest emotion and it makes me cry, too, to see them choked up. It's a sharp contrast to Clinton, for instance, and his lip biting expressions.

Terrific post, Word.

Friday, May 16, 2008 6:36:00 PM  
Blogger SkyePuppy said...

I wonder if Draper believed he was being "objective" in his narrative. He came across to me (in this excerpt) as hostile to President Bush, insinuating that Bush owes the American people plenty of atonement for what he did. That tone comes across in much of the MSM's writing.

Friday, May 16, 2008 8:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6 days after 9/11, the "compassionate" President Bush stated that the ideology that caused 9/11 was... peaceful! Obviously, Bush had less compassion for the victims of 9/11 than for the ideology that made it happen, since he was able to tell such blatant lies to an entire nation.

Saturday, May 17, 2008 2:46:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

For anon and his broken-record religious bigotry, even Robert Spencer isn't Spencer enough for him.

Saturday, May 17, 2008 3:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

I thought it was well written and that Draper did a good job on this article. I didn't see it the way skyepuppy did. Perhaps I'm just not as discerning. I enjoyed the article, and it's good to see our President actually portrayed as an actual human being once-in-awhile, instead of the devil incarnate!

Thank you, Wordsmith. As for Anon... I find it very interesting that he/she can read Bush's mind and judge his level of compassion. Is it possible that the liberals are now in posession of a new invention called a "compassion meter" that we haven't heard about?

Saturday, May 17, 2008 5:38:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


I can see skyepuppy's point; Draper seems to carry some of the MSM and liberal journalist assumptions and preconceived perceptions. Still, the book's not all anti-Bush, and rather fair, but reads as if written from a liberal journalist's point-of-view. I think the book reviews might not be completely accurate, as liberal reviewers will see what they want to see, and come away from reading the book with reinforced negative notions about Bush.

As for anon, he's an anti-Islam troll that comments on all of my posts that don't downright condemn Islam as an evil religion; not a liberal troll.

Saturday, May 17, 2008 6:25:00 PM  
Blogger Nightcrawler said...

I've always believed President Bush to be a good, honest and decent man. He may make decisions that I don't agree with, he may see things differently than I do, but I've always believed he has a good heart.

Saturday, May 17, 2008 7:05:00 PM  

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