When Surprises Attack

The snow guns at Mountain Creek in Vernon, N.J., work non-stop Friday, Jan. 19, 2007, to lay a base of artificial snow in preparation for the planned reopening of the facility.
AP Photo/Warren Westura
It was his first week - and by almost every account, George W. Bush is off to a good start.

Granted, it's hard to look bad when you're playing off the Clinton farewell tour with all his pardons and parting gifts and the occasional act of vandalism.

But give the new man credit. His education plan went down well with all sides, even Democrats said he was setting the right tone, and Alan Greenspan gave him the best gift of all: the green light for a tax cut.

Still, there was a small story in the paper the other day that reminded me that the success of any presidency can never be taken for granted, because so often it turns on events over which a president has no control.

Early in the week, a man who claimed to be a follower of Saddam Hussein hijacked an airliner in Yemen and demanded the pilot fly to Iraq. The hijacker was unaware that Barbara Bodine, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, was on board.

Luckily, the hijacker was not very adept. Instead of flying to Baghdad, the crew tricked him, flew to Djibouti, and disarmed him. No one was hurt, the ambassador was safe, and it all came out for the best.

But it could have easily gone the other way - and what if it had? An American ambassador held hostage by Saddam Hussein in the first week of the Bush presidency? You don't even want to think about it.