Presidential Courage

Former George W Bush speech-writer Bill McGurn writes that he is constantly asked whether his former boss was "smart" (Answer: of course, he is). McGurn says the more important question was whether W was courageous. Do you really need to wonder about the answer?

I saw another version of courage in President Bush. My time in the White House coincided with the worst times of the Iraq War. Each day seemed to bring news of good Americans dying for no appreciable gain, of Baghdad descending into hell, of some congressman or senator who had supported the effort in easier times now calling for America to cut and run.

More than once President Bush told me, "We are not going to lose our nerve and abandon the people of Iraq the way we did the people of Vietnam, from an embassy rooftop." It made for a lonely presidency. Rather than accept defeat, he ordered a surge that almost no one—including some around him—wanted: not the Pentagon, not a weary American public, certainly not Republicans or Democrats in Congress.

The night he gave that speech, Jan. 10, 2007, did not go well. The network gummed up the news feed. The president looked stiff and uncomfortable. Scarcely before he'd finished, the glib and gifted were on television declaring it a flop. The president expected as much. He did what he had to do anyway.

So successful was the surge that today we take it for granted. The progress we see in Iraq, and even the progress President Obama has made in Afghanistan, would not have been possible but for that surge. That surge would not have happened but for President Bush's will

Why bring this up now? Well, we've been hearing a lot of talk from today's White House about a different kind of courage; that "we" must all work together to share the sacrifice in raising taxes to fund a grossly swollen federal government. The overhanging threat is that of default, loss of our AAA credit rating, and a ruined economy. Better to deal rather than face that, right? But, the White House is telling a different story to the banks. There's not going to be any default on August 2:

While officials from the Obama Administration raised their rhetoric over the weekend about the possibility of a debt default if the debt ceiling isn't raised, they privately have been telling top executives at major U.S. banks that such an event won’t happen, FOX Business has learned.

In a series of phone calls, administration officials have told bankers that the administration will not allow a default to happen even if the debt cap isn't raised by the August 2 date Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says the government will run out of money to pay all its bills, including obligations to bond holders. Geithner made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows saying a default is imminent if the debt ceiling isn't raised, and President Obama issued a similar warning during a Friday press conference after budget negotiations with House Republicans broke down.

If you are a Democrat, courage is threatening a market collapse through a strategic default, all the while assuring Wall Street that all the apocalyptic talk is just to scare the rubes and hicks who dared to send conservatives to Congress.

Courage is threatening to refuse to send checks to seniors and the military, while making sure that the Planned Parenthoods and ACORN's of the world get their gov't $$ on time and without interruption.

Courage is demanding your opposition compromise while you present nothing but "non-negotiables."

Courage is making bad faith arguments about "millionaires & billionaires" and corporate jet owners while being the number-one recipient of donations from these targets.

And courage is making all manner of demagogic attacks while hiding behind the poodle skirts of a news media you know will present everything you do in the best possible light, all the while frowning and fussing that Republicans will be "blamed" for every ill that might flow from a default even as you are the one who is actively seeking to bring it about.

Democrats obviously think they are arguing from a position of strength. But they are hardly fighting this fight in a courageous manner.

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