December 19, 2005

WHEN THE TOUGHEST YEAR OF YOUR PRESIDENCY WOULD HAVE BEEN THE BEST OF MOST OF YOUR PREDECESSORS... (via Gene Brown):

It's Time to Pin a Few Medals ... (Joe Klein, Dec. 16, 2005, TIME)

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again ... who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly ..."

Theodore Roosevelt said that in 1910. I named this column In the Arena out of admiration for T.R., but also as a constant reminder to myself not to be unduly cynical about the men and women who do our public work. And so I try to give credit where it's due. I try to avoid criticism that is crude or mocking. But there's no getting around the reality of column writing: I am "the critic," and it is all too easy to dwell on those who don't strive valiantly, spend themselves for a worthy cause or dare greatly. At year's end, however, and especially at the end of a year as horrible as this one, it is appropriate to pay homage to those who have taken risky stands on principle, even when I have disagreed with them.

I've disagreed plenty with our President, George W. Bush, but he was the first person who came to mind when I reread the Roosevelt quote. He has had a difficult year. And yet I can't forget Dr. Kamal Labwani, a Syrian dissident I met in Damascus last spring, just after he was released from prison. He told me how much Bush's words about the importance of freedom and democracy—and the mistake the U.S. had made by supporting repressive regimes in the region—had meant to him. Later in the year, as Labwani was about to be arrested again, he sent me, and others, an e-mail that began, "The security forces have surrounded our house ..." He was released once more and visited Washington, where he was greeted at the White House. When he returned home, he was arrested a third time. President Bush has mentioned the outrageous treatment of Labwani in several speeches and White House statements.


A difficult year in the press, not in reality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 19, 2005 5:45 PM
Comments

Even worse for the media when this man Labwani potentially becomes leader after the mob takes care of the opthalmologist, perhaps including his eyes.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 19, 2005 9:35 PM

Klein is one of those press celeb pundits who, over the years, occassionally has the blinders come off, but then hastily put them back on less they be branded a heretic in the regular D.C.-New York media circles.

He had a good idea who Bill Clinton was, or he wouldn't have written "Primary Colors," but at the same time, he ended up deciding he could live with what he saw better than either Bush 41 or Robert C. Dole, based on his contemporary writings in 1992 and 1996. This story is simply the flip side of that coin -- Klein sees what others are saying about the Bush WOT effort when it directly affects their lives, but even with those positive notices, he won't stray far from the media herd in the end and will return to quagmire mode in due course.

Posted by: John at December 19, 2005 11:36 PM
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