The president, who was two seats across from me and made eye contact with me often (as he made a point to with everyone) exuded confidence and discipline and passion. He talked about very many issues in a 50-something-minute meeting (which I gather was planned to be much shorter), but there was no doubt that war is foremost on his mind–the security of this nation he swore to protect and defend and all. Hearing him, as Kate got from a meeting with an senior administration official last week, you realize just how grave the threat we face every day, and the constant, daily decision-making that happens. He’s the president, of course, and that’s his job. But it’s one he’s doing well, and totally gets in ways I don’t think everyone who has held that job (in very recent history, for instance…) has. Just ask, say, Khaddafi. Or, well, Saddam.
After the president talked Wednesday morning, as comfortably as a long-time friend who has a load of grave and serious concerns on his mind, I was reminded of the contrast of John Kerry rattling off that silly litany at the Wisconsin debate last weekend, when asked by Lester Holt if he would consider himself a “war president.” Kerry said, “I’d see myself first of all as a jobs president, as a health care president, as an education president, and also an environmental president.” The president clearly sees jobs, and the economy, and medicare, and education, etc., etc., as crucially important. But, also, at the end of the day (and the beginning and all times in between), he is the leader who said, “I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.” He said it on Sept. 20, 2001. He meant it then and he still says it and means its today. And there is still protecting the unborn, preventing a brave new world, preserving marriage, stimulating the economy, and a whole host of issues, and we can and will debate the merits of No Child Left Behind, or immigration, etc., but when all is said and done, I, for one, am certainly comforted to know there’s a guy as decent as George W. Bush, who realizes that his everyday decisions will have a long-term impact–way beyond the November elections, for sure–and who loves America and loves liberty, and believes everyone should have a shot at living in it.
None of this, of course, is a shock to me–but it is something to see it right in front of you–to see his confidence and, even, more than a little gravitas.