Jewish World Review March 21, 2006/ 21 Adar, 5766

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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A tough old cuss with a hard head | The toughest thing about managing a team drifting deep into the second division when summer wanes is that everybody has advice for you. Some of it is insincere, most of it is bitter, and all of it is unsolicited.

You could ask George W. Bush.

It's obvious to just about everybody that on the first day of spring, George W.'s club is on its uppers, with not much down left to go. His approval numbers are scraping bottom, his legislative agenda is in the pits, and the natives are beyond restless. Other than that, he's in good shape as a jealous winter gives way with one last icy blast at the heartland.

A lot of people are anxious to help. Others, like Rep. John Murtha, who fancies himself the greatest strategic thinker since FDR, Churchill or at least Jimmy Carter, are merely eager to "help." Every time he sees a camera, the congressman rushes over to send the message to the president that he's whipped, exhausted, and it's time to cut and run. (Someone said they saw him talking into a stray video camera for 10 minutes at Safeway the other day, thinking it was CNN, until the woman behind the lens explained that she was only trying to frame her grandchildren between the cabbages and the cauliflower and would he please get out of the way.) Mr. Murtha calls his retreat "strategic redeployment." Like all old soldiers, he frames the new war with stories from his old one. (Iraq is just like Vietnam, without the geckos.)

The movie star Sharon Stone, a toothsome dish at 48, is brimming with similar confidence in her own version of strategic redeployment: All we need is a little nuance, and nuance is just a breath away. "It feels to me that we have an opportunity ... to choose understanding in a new way," she told a photo op in Paris. "And it really is just a breath. It's just an agreement that's just a breath. We are not far apart. We can choose to have this alternative kind of growth that is a collective nuance of understanding." The reporters and photographers, being reporters and photographers, were less interested in nuances than in her seductively tanned bosom and long legs, but she wants to be taken as seriously as George Clooney, Susan Sarandon and other Hollywood deep thinkers. "We are just that breath away from a peaceful coexistence."

Some advice-givers can be taken more seriously than others. Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, writing in the Wall Street Journal, suggests that George W. do what managers of slumping ball clubs are always urged to do, to trade away lethargic hitters and indifferent glove men. "... He can start the equivalent of his third term now, by filling his presidential staff and cabinet with new faces — or old faces in new positions — and by concentrating on new or forgotten initiatives." He might send Dick Cheney either back "to Wyoming" (he was actually a Texan when George W. picked him for the ticket in '00), replacing him with Condi Rice, or cashier Don Rumsfeld and dispatch the veep to the Pentagon, where he served before. In the Barnes scenario, the president would sack his chief of staff, his national security adviser and even his press spokesman, replacing them with new faces, or at least different faces. He would even send Karl Rove back to the Texas League, and if all this doesn't lift the club out of the second division, it would force the newspapermen to change the subject, which would be almost as good.

But George W. is a stubborn old cuss, tough as a razorback even if he is a Texican, and he's likely to continue doing it his own way. We can all be grateful for his stubborn streak, inherited most likely from his mama, because his single-minded pursuit of evildoers is what has protected us from a reprise of September 11. That's probably why almost nobody showed up for the weekend anti-war rallies, either here or in London or in Europe.

His hard head sometimes leads the president to costly blunders — ignoring Katrina in the early hours afterward, the appointment of Harriet Miers and the over-the-top defense of the indefensible Dubai ports deal. But so what if he was born with a silver spoon and not the golden tongue to thrill the multitudes with silken speech and quotable wit? The terrorists got the word, delivered with the bark on. That's the stuff that starts a late-inning rally.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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