August 24, 2005


Does anyone remember April and May of 2005? And the months preceeding them? The Orange Revolution? The Arab Springtime? The Cedar Revolution of Lebanon - all of them seeming to have a fire lit under them, a wonderful fire of liberty. Remember Revolution Babes?

All around the globe, there was a spirit of something that felt a lot like the Will to Power - something that was building in momentum…like we were on the brink of something truly remarkable and historic and new.

Then, suddenly - poof! - it all stopped? It all just seemed to go away. It was like a big giant foot just came down and stomped out all of those wonderful fires…and the White House seems to have just…blink! Forgotten about it.

I like W a lot, but what the hell?

Judging by the polls, a lot of people are wondering.

As I noted Monday:

Bush's position traditionally flags during the summer, with supporters complaining of malaise, only to see the Administration go back on-message after Labor Day. Will it happen again? It had better, if Bush wants to succeed.

It had better.

UPDATE: Jim Hoft says we're just not paying attention:

I am sorry that people are so blue.... But I am feeling another surge coming upon us.

A trial of a Mass Murderer, a Meeting with the Jews: Link

Abused [Pakistani] women standing so very tall! Link

Soldiers welcomed home!!! Link

There is great news out there! Let's help others tap into it!

Bring it on, to coin a phrase.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge complains that Bush's Iraq strategy has deep-sixed the social-conservative agenda. To me this is less a bug than a feature, and it seems to me that the Democrats would have been wise to recognize this, too, and run with it.

Meanwhile, reader Mike Walker emails:

I think whats wrong with the President is that he is tired, as we say in the south "slam wore out". Like a good blue tick after hunting, he needs to crawl up under the porch out of the heat and sleep for a good long spell. Look at pictures of him, you can see the graying, the wrinkling, and the fraying take place right before your eyes.

The man has had to preside over some momentous events during his 2 terms, from 9/11 to Enron et al to recession to Afghanistan to Iraq to a bitter, long and momentously important election to supreme court appointments. Every step of the way he has been criticized, demonized, lied about, misrepresented, belittled and opposed. No matter what he has done, he has been trashed out by someone somewhere, often including his own party members and some "supporters". He has been betrayed by members of his own party in the senate. HIs victories are ignored and his losses maginified a thousand times over.

The cumulative effect of all this, from what I can judge, has worn him out and drained him of his fire and energy. Lets face it, he is human, and the man has borne some unbelievable burdens over the last 5 years, where his choices were often between shades of the lesser of evils, and no choice was ever easy or apparent. HIs tank is low, and he needs some uplifting by those who believe in him. Nobody will please us 100% of the time.

But what do we do? We start criticizing him again for not being super-human, and we start asking "whats wrong with the president?", as if we ourselves never get tired, worn-out, run down, and just plain disocuraged in our jobs or lives. As a people, have we become this divorced from the realities of high-stakes leadership, and the toll it takes on those who take it on? Worse yet, have we no understanding and empathy for it?

Maybe the real question is, whats wrong with us?

I think everyone is tired. I was tired of the war before the invasion of Iraq and my involvement has been rather more peripheral than GWB's. But it's a good point.

UPDATE: Reader John Beckwith emails:

You have frequently reminded us that democratization is a 'process, not an event.'

I would add that it's more a bursty process not a continuous one. We saw a lot of good news in the 1st half of the year from areas of interest to those of us who actively support extending human liberty. This streak lasted roughly from Arafat's death to Condi's visit to Egypt and included the Iraqi elections. Now things have slowed down, at least in terms of large headline grabbing events with protest hotties. I would expect lulls like this from time to time as people on both sides of a particular struggle absorb what has happened and plan their next move.

Like him or not, Bush is as patient and goal-oriented as one could hope within the political constraints he faces. This is a good thing as our war with the 'insurgency' in Iraq has become largely a test of wills fought in an unfavorable media environment. I would like to think that the president, as is his pattern in September, can alter that environment a bit and regain some public support, but there is only so much he can do with words. Events will matter more and we can expect them to pick up relatively soon. I doubt Bush sleeps too well at night, but if he does it's because he has done what he can up front to maximize the likelihood that the next flurry of activity will break in a good direction for our country and allies.

Your reader's blue tick metaphor is apt. Bush has taken a lot of criticism for the R&R he takes and his 'early to bed' habits, but they are the actions of a leader who understands the that the tempo of events is bursty. We should cut him some slack on this basis.

That's true. But momentum matters, too.

More here: The Thrill is Gone.