View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Peace President 

Both Ramesh Ponnuru over at NRO, and Andrew Sullivan, who's just getting grouchier by the minute, are upset over this NY Times report from the President's campaign:

Mr. Bush noted: "The enemy declared war on us. Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president. The next four years will be peaceful years." He repeated the words "peace" or "peaceful" many times, as he has done increasingly in his recent appearances.

We know this administration values speechwriters. So, how about this from Peggy Noonan in last Thursday's Wall Street Journal:

Here is a criticism I have spoken of but not written of regarding President Bush. When you are president and you are doing hard things in history like making war, and you are doing it in the jingle-jangle of the modern media environment, you have a kind of moral responsibility to make it clear that you hate war, really hate it, and love peace. This would seem obvious, but is not. Men and women in the midst of planning war forget to say it and insist it. Sly old FDR didn't forget, though. Lincoln didn't forget it either. He always made it clear he thought the impending and then ongoing war a painful tragedy. Mr. Bush has not made it clear, or has not repeated often enough, that he hopes for peace, yearns for peace, loves it. He seems part of the very drama he has been forced to wage, and seems sometimes to enjoy it.

This is delicate. A leader cannot seem ambivalent about crucial actions and decisions, and he can't seem so weighed down by the facts and implications of those decisions that people begin to wonder if he's lost his fight. There's a reason people like a happy warrior. A happy warrior tends to be a winning warrior. And yet. In the world we live in a leader must seem almost palpably yearning for life and peace even as he makes tough decisions that will soon deny either or both to some.

Is it possible that the White House just took a hint? Now, maybe they went about it a little ham-handedly, or maybe the Times mucked up the quote, or maybe the President freelanced a little. But I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people in this White House read the OpinionJournal. Peggy Noonan is somewhat controversial, even in conservative circles. But she's onto something here, I think, and maybe the campaign thinks so, too.

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