Friday, November 05, 2004

ADD-Style Thursday Night Commentary

No matter what one's politics, Senator John Kerry's concession speech, delivered on Wednesday at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston, was gracious and classy. I've been watching Kerry since 1971 and never realized what heart his Brahmin style concealed.
Baseball fans of a certain age will remember that slugger Reggie Jackson once described himself as the one who stirred the New York Yankees of the late-70s to greatness. (Much to the chagrin of Yankee catcher Thurman Munson.)

Sometimes, it seems, the media serves a similar egotistical stirring (and grating) role in our national life. Twenty-four hours after John Kerry conceded and President Bush acknowledged victory in the election, the media punditocracy had apparently decided on the obsession-du-jour: Asking whether President Bush had a mandate to govern.

This is silly! Irrespective of the margin of victory, the President received a clear majority in both the popular and Electoral College votes. (He's the first presidential winner since his dad in 1988 to get a majority.) Mr. Bush received more votes for president than any candidate in US history. (Second place on the list? John Kerry.)

I thought that it was gracious and statesmanlike for Willy Brown, former Democratic mayor of San Francisco and one-time Democratic leader of the California legislature, to say on tonight's Newshour with Jim Lehrer that of course, Mr. Bush has a mandate to pursue his program.
The History Channel's documentary on Dwight Eisenhower, about three-quarters of which I was able to view, was pretty good. I'd give it a B-minus. Although two hours in length, it still managed to be a bit thin in some places. It could have gone into a bit more detail on Eisenhower's World War Two-efforts and it failed to convey the extent to which this man, once thought to be little more than a presidential figurehead, ensured that America was at peace during his watch.

But it was fair in its negative assessment of Ike's failure to respond appropriately to the civil rights movement.

There were a few facts shared of which this Ike-afficionado had been unaware. I hadn't known, for example, that Eisenhower was so opposed to the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two, believing that Japan had already been beaten. I also hadn't known how sternly he had counseled both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson not to send US soldiers into Vietnam.

For my money, Eisenhower was one of the three best presidents of the twentieth century. (My other two choices: Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt.) He is also, I believe, one of a small pantheon of greatest US leaders of all time. On that list, I include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, George Marshall, and perhaps a surprise entrant, Billy Graham.

I often wonder what counsel Eisenhower might have given President Bush regarding the invasion of Iraq had Mr. Bush been able to ask Ike.
Chris Williams asks in his November 1 blog posting if there's a cure for stupidity. It's a good question and he's seeking your input on how best to encourage more concern for personal responsibility rather than entitlement in today's world. Click on his blog here.
She identifies herself as a liberal evangelical Christian. She voted for Kerry and she's pro-life. Deborah White presents atypical, intriguing thoughts on her presidential candidate's loss and the state of America. Whether you agree with her or not, it's worth a read here.
As usual, Mark Roberts has interesting things to say on his blog. This time he's doing so in a series of post-election posts on Christian reaction to the election results. In these wise, judicious, and faithful articles, Mark commends civility, compassion, and a balanced appreciation of the fact that far more important than our politics or government policies is the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the good of all our neighbors, even those with whom we may disagree. Great stuff, Mark!


Phyllis said...

Hi, Mark. I am asking for prayers for one of our blogger friends Ellen Crush. She just found out her cancer that has been in remission for three years is back and metastisized into her lung and uterus. She needs as many prayers as she can get! Thank you!

sidesspot said...

Pastor Roberts,

Hmmm, those are three great presidents, no doubt. I wonder if you missed one? 1980s, initials RWR?

God Bless,
Mark S.

Mark Daniels said...

Frankly, as a student of history, I think that the jury is still out on Ronald Reagan. No doubt he changed some of the atmospherics of the country and I do respect him for his standing up to PATCO during the flight controllers' strike.

But I can't credit him, as many do, for the demise of the Soviet Union. That, I believe, was the result of several factors: (a) The policy of containment first developed during the Truman Administration. (By the way, Eisenhower, first as Joint Chiefs Chairman and then as NATO commander, contributed mightily to the birth of this policy and then showed other Presidents how to do it without firing a shot during his two terms in the White House.) (b) The inherent flaws in Communism and the Soviet regime. Any time governments soak up as much GDP on military capabilities as the Soviets did, they are consigning their nations to the ash heaps of history. (c) The faithful prayers of millions around the world, asking God to grant freedom to the enslaved peoples of the Soviet empire.

Nor can the massive deficit spending in which he engaged be overlooked.

The "nation-building" illegally undertaken by his administration during his watch is also problematic.

Reagan's leadership style was perhaps what was needed in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate. A sense of America's possibilities and an appreciation of what is good about the country was helpful. Jimmy Carter spoke of this often. But he became so mired in the details of administration that he failed to paint the grand visions which presidents sometimes need to convey.

One other thing from my study of history: I agree with Jim Collins, the business scholar, who writes in his fabulous book, Good to Great, that it is generally a good idea to be wary of charismatic leaders. All too often, they're so concerned with atmospherics or progress in the short term that they neglect what is good for the long haul. Future historians, with more access to the record of the Reagan years will be in a better position to discern whether his was a great presidency or not.

For me, the evidence at present is at best, mixed. At least, that's what I think.

God bless you and thanks for reading my blog.

foxwizard said...

Hey Mark.
Good commentary. I especially like your piece on suffering. But the bit about Bush's mandate, I do have a quibble with. President Bush recieved a 3% majority of those voting, among the thinnest margins in history. One can say he has a mandate, yes; but that mandate is a result of our winner-take-all electoral system and is not unlimited. I think the narrowness of the majority creates a moral, if not actual, obligtion on the president's part to engage in coalition building with the opposition, and to govern more to the middle of the road. I am concerned that he takes his mandate as an unlimited approval for many extremist right-wing policies, rather than as the tepid approval of a nervous public that it is. For more, check out my comments on my blog.