April 9, 2003


Another big inning for Bush (HOWARD FINEMAN, 4/09/03, MSNBC.COM)
Like the rest of the world, I've just watched (live) a historic moment: a statue of Saddam Hussein crashing to earth, pulled from its pedestal by relieved GIs and jubilant Iraqis. Grave challenges lie ahead in the war on terrorism, to be sure. But since I cover American politics, I'll focus on what I know, which is this: It's George W. Bush, in a sense, who toppled that statue. The guy doesn't play small ball; he goes for the Big Inning -- and doesn't waver. Bush is what I'd call a disciplined radical, pursuing sweeping aims with an almost blinkered determination. At least for now -- since Sept. 11, 2001 -- it's working. A month ago I wrote in this space that never had so much blood and treasure been risked on the hope that people would smile. Well, watch MSNBC. There they are. [...]

Throughout this dark time, I nagged my White House sources, trying to glean what little I could about the president -- his mood, his orders, state of mind. A few outsiders not in position to know (and who loathe his war policy for various reasons) spread word that he had grown snappish and weary. I think they were wrong. My sense is that he burrowed deeper into himself (and ran extra miles on the treadmill), steadily monitoring the war but never losing faith (or sleep) about his momentous decision to take out Saddam with a U.S-U.K coalition.

Why such confidence? I've written a lot about it. As a family, Bushes think they are born to lead. This particular Bush relishes decision-making. He picks people he trusts and trusts them to make the right call. He tends not to sweat the details, thereby avoiding the ups and downs of any one hour or day. His religious faith gives him a disciplined belief in the rightness of his cause. All the spin about his dedication to diplomacy notwithstanding, this is a guy who is more than comfortable at war. He likes the role of commander in chief. He's more comfortable in it than any other presidential mode. The fall of the Twin Towers, it turns out, found a man in the White House who likes the idea of leading troops in battle. [...]

There are risks in a Big Inning Presidency. One is arrogance. [...]

And if you score big in one inning you can pursue the strategy too far -- and strike out. Europeans with whom I've spoken in recent days are worried that Baghdad is just the first stop on an even more ambitious Bush Plan to bring "regime change" to Teheran and Damascus, the latter being the last stronghold (other than, perhaps, Tikrit), of the Baathist Party. The Europeans may be right to be concerned. "If I were a mullah in Iran or Bashir Assad in Syria I'd be thinking 'I'm next,'" a leading American expert on the region told me. "But the Iranians are much smarter and craftier than Saddam. The next step would be tougher."

The biggest risk is that the Big Inning strategy -- a combination of sweeping aims (the democratization of the Arab world) and military might -- won't achieved the desired result, which is to rid the world of terrorism.

This laudatory piece seems a good place to repeat something we've remarked on several times. When the books are written about the Bush years, one of the most remarkable achievements of this period will be one that has gone nearly unnoticed, even by those who are willing to give credit when due: he has forced regime change in Palestine merely by the force of his rhetoric.
Posted by Orrin Judd at April 9, 2003 8:46 PM

Fineman tends to give Bush his due at times, though overall, instead of a home run on Iraq, much of the regular media punditry is still waiting for Bush to make the political/military equivalent of the Sammy Sosa trade
so they can finally get some footing after a very long losing streak.

However, other columnists are so stuck in their ways they are never going to change, no matter how many images of celebrating Iraqis they see. The latest from Molly Ivins
is a perfect example. She knows Bush has won on the war, so now she and others on the left are going after the peace -- tar one of the Iraqi resistance leaders, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, as a crook, and let everyone know that Jay Garner, the general picked to run post-Saddam Iraq is "a retired military man with links to both the international arms industry and a Jewish lobby group."

Playing the anti-Zionist card isn't likely to carry much weight among rational-thinking people in the United States. But since Molly was ground zero in creating the image of GWB as a frat-boy moron that the left both in the United States and Eurpose cling to like a security blanket, they treat her insights a holy writ. Seeing how nasty she's already getting is a good indication of where the rest of the left is heading in the upcoming months.

Posted by: John at April 9, 2003 10:16 PM

The nice thing about a Big Inning presidency comes when you are playing an opponent who can't hit worth beans. Then all you need is a single inning.

I don't think Bush plans to have only a single Big Inning, however. Heck, he's already had two.

Posted by: Timothy at April 9, 2003 11:22 PM

3--Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq

Posted by: oj at April 9, 2003 11:28 PM