Evoking Lincoln In Considering Bush

President Bush leaves the White House, to participate in the christening ceremony of the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006, in Washington. AP

This column was written by Michael Novak

A while back, I wrote a short column asserting that no matter whether you agree with President Bush or not, or admire him in other respects or not, it is incontestable that he is one of the bravest presidents ever to occupy the White House. All around him, pundits say that his presidency is "a failure," that he is "the worst president ever," and that his "war to emancipate the Middle East is a fiasco" or a "total disaster." I have seen some write, or say on television, that Bush is too much of a simpleton and country boy even to understand how bad things have gotten in Iraq; that he is lost in a fog of religious unreality; and that his visible good humor and love of little jokes are further signs of how essentially unserious he is.

Another way to look at the same evidence, of course, is to note that the president consciously and willfully gambled his entire presidency on the war in Iraq, and on the very daring (foolhardy?) strategy of getting democratic currents started in the Middle East. To the point of boredom, and despite relentless criticism, he has been unswerving. It is not reasonable to believe that he is insensitive to the insults constantly hurled at him, nor oblivious to the course his "betters" insist that he should take.

So let us for a moment suspend judgment on whether Bush is truly brave, visionary, and far ahead of his time. Those encomiums are what we usually heap on Abraham Lincoln. . . . but only after the fact of victory in 1865. Such praise was not sent Lincoln's way during the long, dark year from autumn 1863 until September 1864. Quite the opposite.

Many in that dark time wrote, spoke and thought of Lincoln in much the same way people nowadays speak of George W. Bush.

"Well!" I can hear you remonstrate haughtily, "Bush deserves it. Lincoln did not."

That is easy to say now; it was not so easy late in 1863, and under the gathering clouds of 1864, when it seemed certain that a bumbling Lincoln could not possibly win a second term, and that all he had fought for would come to naught.

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