Thursday, April 15, 2004

Broder: Bush Is Unhinged

Well, that’s not exactly what he said. But it’s close.

What is right, and what is terribly important and engaging, is the genuine idealism that informs George Bush’s basic policy decisions. He embodies and gives voice to the belief that goes back to the very founding of this nation — that America’s historic role is to demonstrate the blessings of freedom here at home, to be the bulwark of freedom in the world and to share the gift of freedom as widely as possible.

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All this is to the good. But by themselves, these qualities do not suffice for the presidency in times as troubled as these. The public also expects prudent judgment, candor and enough attention to the complexity of real-world choices to sustain confidence that the leader is up to the challenge.

And here Bush failed as completely as he succeeded in projecting those other attributes of leadership.

The failures came whenever he was asked substantive questions about pending or past decisions. My Post colleague Mike Allen asked the question that no one in Congress, not even such leading foreign policy spokesmen as Sens. Dick Lugar and Joe Biden, has been able to get the White House to answer: Given the president’s insistence that civil authority will be transferred to Iraqis come June 30, who will actually take the helm?

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Idealism is a wonderful and attractive trait in a leader. But visions unhinged from strategies and heedless of risks can lead to disasters, especially when impatience produces hasty decision making. We have seen too much of that in the Bush presidency.

Bush’s new campaign slogan: “Reality? I only go there as a tourist.”