Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2000 / 22 Kislev, 5761
The most impressive things are the
ones strategists can't shape
THE MAJOR OBSTACLE -- and it's really more of an opportunity -- faced by
George W. Bush in the weeks ahead could be seen in microcosm during one of
those interminable days when the world was waiting to find out the official
winner in Bush's election race against Al Gore.
Bush was down in Texas, as the various courts deliberated over the outcome
of the election. This was near the end -- it appeared all but certain that he
would be declared the victor. Reporters were allowed into the room where Bush
sat, and were permitted to ask a few questions. Sitting to Bush's right were
two of his top campaign advisers, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.
As the reporters presented Bush with questions, he seemed almost visibly to
try to remember what the campaign's message-of-the-day was supposed to be. On
that day the official message was the Bush campaign's desire that Gore should
"do what is best for the country" -- that was the exact phrase. And, just for
a few moments, there was the uncomfortable feeling that Bush was struggling to
please the watchful Rove and Hughes -- that he was endeavoring to recall the
assigned phrase, to get it right.
Is that unfair to Bush? Probably. But there is little fair about the
process in which the country is invited to closely examine the candidates --
as, all the while, the candidates' advisers work day and night to shape what
the citizens see. And Bush, now that he is president-elect, will face the
daily suspicion by many of the 50 million Americans who voted against him
that, as amiable and charming as he is, he may also be, at center, a passive
vessel being used by his party's leaders to carry out their plans and wishes.
Is that even more unfair to Bush? The world will soon find out. To those
who are leery about the president-elect, the fact that so many of the people
who will occupy the most influential jobs in his administration -- Dick
Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice -- were top advisers to Bush's dad
serves as fodder for their most skeptical assumptions. They suspect that Karl
Rove, Karen Hughes and the other skilled strategists who helped win the
election will really be running the country -- that Bush is their spokesman,
not the other way around.
But there is a different way to look at this -- a way that puts the
president-elect in a much more favorable light. Interestingly, it is a part of
Bush's life that his campaign worked hard to de-emphasize.
The week before Election Day, when, out of nowhere, news of an old DUI
arrest broke, there was some speculation that this could doom Bush's chances.
I thought the opposite. Bush's past difficulties with alcohol were
well-known -- as was his successful swearing-off of drinking, because he
thought it was hurting his life. He preferred not to talk about the specifics
-- but he always made it clear that his decision for full-time sobriety was a
profound and serious one. The old DUI shouldn't have shocked anyone -- people
who have drinking problems usually don't swear off alcohol because of
theoretical or intellectual reasons. They do it because they have bottomed out
-- because darkness is overtaking them. Of course he had to have had
alcohol-related episodes in his past that he was deeply ashamed of.
And he stopped. A person who stops drinking can't do it because of
admonitions from advisers, or schemes by strategists, or findings by
pollsters. Other people can help -- but at core, a person does that because of
a will and a strength inside himself or herself. There are new opportunities
to fail, to fall back, with each tick of every day's clock. It is a solitary
process -- and in the end, the strength it takes cannot come from anyone else.
This, it seems to me, is the best and most impressive part of the George W.
Bush story -- this is the part that may be more important than anything else.
He's going to be the president -- not his advisers, not his staff, not his
father, but him. He's the one who has been elected -- and the country will be
depending not on his assistants, not on his political party's ideologues, not
on his speechwriters. He's the guy.
And there is something to be said for the thought that all of the
stagecraft, all of the carefully massaged talking points, don't matter as much
as what kind of guy he is. The answer to that -- we can all hope -- may be
found in the part of him that, understandably, he chooses not to talk about in
much detail. It may be found in the man who made a decision to make himself
better and stronger -- and who, by all indications, has been true and faithful
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
12/14/00: There is a word for what the country is going through
12/13/00: Courtroom moments that never make the front page
12/07/00: Does Justice Scalia really believe Americans can't take the truth?
12/07/00: Al Gore slept here -- and there goes the neighborhood
12/06/00: In the midst of all the noise, the truth will be heard
12/05/00: If you think the election has been weird up until now ...
11/30/00: If two men applying for a job were treated like this ...
11/29/00: Will all of this turn people away from politics? Dream on
11/28/00: Send Bush and Gore to their rooms -- bring in the pros
11/23/00: Three little words-- and two strange weeks in Florida
11/22/00: Did you hear the one about the farmer's daughter in Florida?
11/21/00: The shocking saga of the incredible shrinking men
11/15/00: The glorious mess that has come our way
11/09/00: How do you cross the line when the line has vanished?
11/08/00: The wave of the future
11/06/00: The crime that hides behind a wall of silence
11/02/00: If you have been asking yourself what you can do ...
11/01/00: 'He will never know what it is like to ride a bicycle'
10/31/00: 'It makes you feel that you are absolutely powerless'
10/30/00: THE KILLER LEARNS 'ANGER MANAGEMENT' AND IS FREED
10/26/00: `I'm not going to go up there and yell and scream'
10/25/00: With prosecutors silent, the other killer is released
10/24/00: The boy's killer: 'I've served my time, and I'm out'
10/23/00: Blaming the boy for bringing on his own killing
10/20/00: The child's killer is released -- to care for other children
10/19/00: Words that the judge would not allow to be spoken
10/18/00: A courthouse game in which the boy was not included
10/17/00: The killers get 7 to 25 years ... with a wink
10/13/00: While the killers maneuver, the boy goes unburied
10/13/00: The killers demand a concession -- and they get it
10/12/00: The prosecutors decide it doesn't qualify as murder
10/11/00: 'He wouldn't eat his eggs, and we put him to bed'
10/10/00: The autopsy leaves no questions: 'It was a homicide'
10/06/00: 'Had they shot him in the head, he would have suffered less'
10/05/00: 'I remember the moment that I first saw the human bite marks'
10/04/00: They killed a 3-year-old boy -- and they are free
09/29/00: This just in, sort of: How the news can make you calm
09/27/00: Like being with old
friends in places you
09/21/00: If the Olympics banished television . . .
09/19/00: As summer ends, have the executives learned any lessons?
09/14/00: The new stardom that doesn't require paying any dues
09/12/00: Leave a light on for us children of the pioneers
09/09/00: River banks? How to turn water into an endless cash flow
09/06/00:Oh, give me a home, where the megabytes roam . . .
09/01/00: If this works, it can literally change young lives
08/30/00: From inside all those screen porches, one more cheer
08/24/00: Who will make your life better by August of 2004?
08/24/00: Four men running -- Why do we have to throw out two?
08/16/00:The certain way to measure the Lieberman factor
08/10/00: Can a library be a library without books?
08/08/00: Can't they spare eight nights every four years?
08/04/00: Cheney, Abe Lincoln and Ricky Martin -- do they add up?
08/02/00: Convention aside, you might want to tune in
07/27/00: How to make a killing
07/25/00: 'If we didn't do it, no one else would'
07/24/00: The executioners who walk among us
07/20/00: On Main Street, signs of the times tell two stories
07/18/00: Have the choices changed, or have we?
07/14/00: Gable, Hepburn, Zanuck--you wouldn't find them at HOJO's
07/13/00: The Great Lie about political conventions
07/06/00: If this is victory, what would defeat feel like?
06/29/00: A bright moon and a missing person on Orange Ave.
06/26/00: They're not singing our song
06/22/00: The name game
06/07/00: It's like knocking on a revolving door
06/06/00: Steven who? A close encounter of mistaken identity
06/02/00: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
05/31/00: The best laughter, the truest voices, will never fade
05/25/00: Of distant visions, close views, and Bobby Knight
05/24/00: 'The luckiest thing that ever happened to me'
05/23/00: 'It's funny how you remember the little things'
05/22/00: 'The whisper of a generation saying goodbye to its children'
05/19/00: The place to find life is not a keyboard
05/18/00: A problem of suds but no duds
05/17/00: Are those lazy, hazy dot-com days fading?
05/16/00: The truest things in life require not a single word
05/15/00: 'Evidently he didn't like the way she dusted the house'
05/12/00: Why news executives are hoping this 'woman' is a hit
05/11/00: Ted Koppel, Hitler, Mellencamp . . . and words of love
05/10/00: Maybe it's time for the right people to hear our cheers
05/09/00: The lesson that they always learn late
05/05/00: 'Excuse me, but there seems to be something in my water'
05/05/00: When your first dream turns out to be your best dream
05/04/00: Even baseball couldn't make light of this superstition
05/03/00: The ringmaster who looks back from your mirror
05/02/00: There they go, just a-yappin' down the street . . .
05/01/00: You must remember this (Unless you don't)
04/24/00: Now that casino ads are allowed to tell the truth . . .
04/13/00: The man in the seat across the airplane aisle
04/11/00: A star is born, but do you know where it's @?
04/06/00: Through the eyes of Norman Rockwell
03/21/00: 10 good reasons to avoid making this list
03/21/00: 'I tell myself that they've gone on vacation'
03/21/00: Monday Night Football memories
03/02/00: This report card deserves an 'A' in every subject
02/29/00: What really happened on New Year's eve
02/23/00: Of paste pots, Denver sandwiches and finding Dr. Sam
02/17/00: What would you like to stay exactly the same?
02/04/00: Politics: When did the stagehands step onto the stage?
02/01/00: An awesome idea to make you sound better
01/26/00: Y3K already? We haven't yet recovered from Y2K
01/21/00: Watching the pot that always boils
01/19/00:The story behind the men on the museum steps
01/13/00: Here's to the students who never hear a cheer
01/11/00: The oh-so-sweet sound of modems in the morning
01/04/00: The person in your mirror just got wiser
12/31/99: A lesson -- and a memory -- to last a millennium
12/29/99: Racing the clock, even when it's running backwards
12/13/99: The right to bear coffee
12/08/99: From teen idol to ink-stained wretch: Can you Dig it?
12/02/99: Human 'search engines'
11/30/99: Here's looking at you -- now hand over the cash
11/23/99: Who'll say 'I'm sorry' to the other Decatur students?
11/18/99: "From bad things, good can come"
11/16/99: The man who didn't know the meaning of 'whatever'
11/12/99: Is this progress? We have made the weekend obsolete
11/09/99: Today he would probably be called Kyle Kramden
11/04/99: And you thought the IRS was heartless
11/02/99: When it's free, what will the real price be?
10/29/99: The tissue-thin decisions that define who we are
10/26/99: One way to cut road rage down to size
10/22/99: Asking all the right questions takes a special pitch
10/18/99: The signs are talking to you; Are you listening?
10/12/99: Even Capone would be disgusted
10/08/99: Don't ever look your neighborhood bear in the eye
10/06/99: Land of the free and marketplace of the brave
10/04/99: German warplanes in
09/30/99: While you fret, something is sneaking up on you
09/28/99: In these busy times, why not bring back a certain buzz?
09/24/99: The storms whose paths no one can track
09/21/99: Who's minding the store? Oh . . . never mind
09/17/99:Here's another place where you can't smoke
09/14/99: As certainly as `lovely Rita' follows `when I'm 64' . . .
09/09/99: Why is patience no longer a virtue?
09/07/99: Once upon a time, in an airport close to you . . .
09/03/99: The answers? They are right in front of us
09/01/99: Up the creek with a paddle--and cussing up a storm
08/30/99: $1 Million Question: How'd we get to be so stup-d?
08/27/99: Fun and games at Camp Umbilical Cord
08/25/99: How life has been changed by the woodpecker effect
08/23/99: If you don't like this story, blame the robot who wrote it
08/20/99: A four-letter word that has helped both Bob and Rhonda
08/18/99: They have picked the wrong country
08/16/99: From paperboy to stalker--how the news has changed
08/12/99: Why wasn't anyone watching his brothers?
08/10/99: Come to think of it, stars seldom are the retiring type
08/05/99: The national gaper's block is always jammed
07/29/99: 'Can you imagine the gift you gave me?'
07/27/99: A view to a kill -- but is this really necessary?
07/23/99: Some cream and sugar with your turbulence?
07/21/99: When your name is JFK jr., how do you choose to use it?
07/19/99: The real world is declared not real enough
07/15/99: The real victims of cruel and unusual punishment
07/13/99: A 21st Century idea for schools: log off and learn
07/09/99: Are life's sweetest mysteries still around the bend?
07/07/99: Of great minds, cream cheese and Freddy Cannon
07/02/99: The perfect spokesman for the American way
06/30/99: 'He's 9 years old . . . he trusts people'
06/28/99: A $581 million jackpot in the courthouse casino
06/25/99: A nighttime walk to a House that feels like a cage
06/23/99: At least give men credit for being more morose
06/18/99: On Father's Day, a few words about mothers
06/16/99: If work is a dance, how's
your partner doing?
06/14/99: Should a dictionary ever tell you to keep quiet?
06/10/99: A story of Sex, the SuperBowl and your wife
06/07/99: Take a guess where "California Sun" is from
06/03/99: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
06/01/99: Putting your money where their mouths are
05/27/99: Pressed between wooden covers, the summer of her life
05/25/99:The lingering song of a certain summer
05/24/99:We could all use a return to the Buddy system
05/20/99: Now, this is enough to make James Bond double-0 depressed
05/17/99: It's midnight -- do you know where your parents are?
05/13/99: And now even saying "thank you" creates a problem
05/11/99: The answer was standing at the front door
©1999, Tribune Media Services