Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 2004 / 25 Mar-Cheshvan 5765
Jay D. Homnick
Nice guys last to the finish
An Israeli cousin of mine, single in her late twenties, relocated to New York to expand her dating options. She preferred to have her dates pick her up at our house, where my Dad would stand in for his brother as a proxy father figure. Once, she was waiting to be picked up for a first date by the scion of a famous family of Rabbis and Talmudic scholars. Until the doorbell finally rang, she was treated to a long lecture by my Dad about the privilege of dating a member of such an illustrious family.
When she came home, she delivered her report. "It was a privilege," she said, "but not a pleasure."
I have been hearing much the same from some of my fellow pundits about our work covering the campaign from the President's side. They are happy that he won and honored to have played a part but harbor an ill-concealed disdain for him as a person. Let me make this perfectly clear: I am not among their number. I happen to like the guy.
Now I base this on more than intuition, although that contributes. I have been watching the man off-camera, monitoring a series of small vignettes, many of which did not make the news. It was my decision not to run with some of this material before the election and to allow the public knowledge to be the currency of the debate. But now that the angel dust has settled and we are all a little bit high, I will lay out some of the little morsels of evidence that convinced me of his genuine hail-fellow-well-met status.
There was a lot of inclemency in the weather back when he was executing his duties as Governor of Texas and some thought him too breezy. But I paid close attention to Bobby Valentine in 1999 when he was asked during the Mets-Braves playoff what it was like to have been fired by George W. Bush as manager of the Texas Rangers. Bobby said that he really appreciated the fact that W was man enough to do the unpleasant task himself but did it in a very gentle and sensitive manner.
During that period, he traveled to Israel to survey the topographical and political terrain, at which time he was largely adopted by General Ariel Sharon, who showed him that the road to the helicopters was paved with good intentions. After his visit, I was told by a source in the Israeli Department of Defense that he found W to be un-statesmanlike. In what way? It seems that when they presented information about all the nastiness that the Palestinians were inflicting, he flippantly remarked, "Why don't you just nuke 'em?"
Well, for my Israeli buddy, puffed up with his sense of moment and ceremony, that was just too crass even for a witticism. For me as an unrepentantly middlebrow "ugly American", that remark was worth two thumbs (or any alternate finger you care to suggest) up.
Another tidbit that whetted my appetite was a report by Mark Steyn of a rally that he had attended in 2000 before the New Hampshire primary. A man in the crowd had challenged Bush and said, "Forget about the political issue of gay rights legislation. How do you personally feel about gays as individuals?" W answered on the spot, "Hey, we're all sinners, buddy."
Again off the record, I was told by Jewish activists that Bush had approached them back before he announced his candidacy for the nomination in 2000 and told them, "I know that my Dad made mistakes in his dealings with Jews. Don't worry, I won't make those mistakes. I'm not my Dad."
I liked very much the fact that he took the time to do a little matchmaking in the White House, introducing his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to a girl that worked over in the East Wing. Sure enough, they got married, and Fleischer quit to enjoy his new happiness. That was a story unlike anything that I had ever heard about a President.
And this year, Matt Lauer put him on the spot and asked him, "So are you saying that your service in the National Guard was as heroic as John Kerry's service in the Navy?" Virtually any politician that I can recall, even those I admired greatly, would have dodged that question with some malarkey about the inappropriateness of comparing two aspects of military service. Instead, George answered like a man: "Of course his service was more heroic. He was in harm's way and I wasn't."
A class act. A nice guy. I feel very privileged to have played a role advancing his campaign in the polemical realm. Indeed it was a pleasure.
JWR contributor Jay D. Homnick is the author of many books and essays on Jewish political and religious affairs. Comment by clicking here.
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04/21/04: The doctor is not in
03/17/04: Yanqui go home
02/09/04: Bush's full courting of Meet the Press (and other tales of Kay's treat)
01/08/04: Is taking two tablets bad for your constitution?
01/02/04: Watching the Dean's office
11/21/03: Ronald Reagan so misunderstood
11/14/03: Mulling (And Culling) The Democratic Field
11/11/03: World Seriously crazy: Grand malay seizures and Gibson screwballs
10/28/03: Bible or Babble in Babylon?
09/05/03: Dubya's last stand?
08/26/03: They don't sue prematurely (Tales Out Of Court)
07/29/03: Equipped with a quip, he gave the Hope
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06/27/03: The Tempest (not "The Taming of the Shrew")
06/16/03: Iraq and roll
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04/23/03: The Nutrasweet War against the Axis of Evil: Did Rummy forget?
© 2003, Jay D. Homnick