The president’s dead certainty
Certainty is a fine quality. George Bush and John Kerry agreed to that during Thursday’s debate. But certainty has a downside, warned Kerry. “You can be certain and be wrong.”
George Bush displays a steadfast certainty that, for some, bolsters the image of his leadership. Even as Iraq explodes in daily violence, Bush claims superior leadership traits due to his unyielding certainty.
“I know how this world works!” he proclaimed during the debate. The veracity of that claim is neither proven nor evident, and it is worrisome to many who think that Bush’s certainty is based on denial, presumption and hubris.
Jon Stewart, the comedic anchor of “The Daily Show,” put it this way in a recent interview with Time: “Their best argument for re-election is, Yes, I drove us into a brick wall. But I didn’t blink!”
Bush’s certainty has become a deadly factor in a volatile world, and it surfaced during the debate when Bush made another bold proclamation. While John Kerry advocated for international cooperation and the strengthening of alliances, Bush stated: “Trying to be popular in a global sense when it’s not in our best interests is not what I’m going to do.”
Going it alone with global unpopularity has been twisted into an American strength. The image of the United States as a rogue state with a “make my day” approach to international challenges is celebrated with bravado.
Kerry hammered Bush during the debate, criticizing the president’s poor planning and lack of an exit strategy in Iraq, and he’s right. Bush’s impetuous arrogance is veiled by a moral certainty that has proven grievously fallible.
“The world is better off without Saddam Hussein,” said Bush, “and I will constantly stay on the offensive in the War Against Terror. Remember, they attacked us on 9/11.”
Bush’s attempt to play the fear and hatred cards was trumped when Kerry reminded the president and the American public that it was not Saddam and the Iraqi people who attacked the World Trade Center.
A president cannot rely on flawed certainty, emphasized Kerry. “Sound judgment must be employed in winning the peace,” he said. “And it’s getting worse in Iraq.”
Bush blames the current imbroglio on what he termed the “catastrophic success” of the blitzkrieg of U.S. troops, bombs and missiles that converted Iraqi resistance into a militant insurgency. It also resulted in the “Mission Accomplished” blooper.
Bush, posing on the deck of the aircraft carrier in the flight suit he resisted wearing during his questionable Air National Guard service, is one of the strangest ironies of his heroic imagery.
Bush claimed that the “Mission Accomplished” banner was not his idea, but the sailors’. Still, he has ridden that banner to a pinnacle of premature glory that is so top heavy with hubris that it’s collapsing around him.
Kerry told Bush to adopt the “Pottery Barn Policy” ” you break it, you fix it. But fixing Iraq is akin to mending Humpty Dumpty, and in this case, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men have egg on their faces.
If it can’t be fixed, then it has to be paid for. The American people are paying with more than 1,000 lives and billions of dollars, and the cost to the Iraqis is incalculable. Certainty has become an expensive word in any language.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays.
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