13 June 2007

I respect George W. Bush

Of all the rude things I've ever put on this rude blog, I suspect the title of this post might be the most offensive to some of my throngs ;-) of readers.

But it's true - I do have a certain measure of respect for our commander-in-chief. Now, don't get me wrong - I wouldn't vote for him to be the facilitator of a yearbook committee, much less any public office. I would probably disqualify him right off the bat due to the extreme black-and-white, nuance-free way he seems to view much of the world, but add in the fact that he and I disagree strongly on a whole lot of major issues - war and peace, the environment, poverty issues, you name it - and I ought to be clear that I'm not exactly a bush supporter. And it's not even hard for me to come up with a list of white, male, powerful, conservative Republican politicians that I respect more than GWB: Bob Dole, John McCain, Bush's dad.

But I do respect Bush, and the reason that I respect him is that as far as I can tell, he's not, primarily, a mere political animal. He's a man of conviction, who frequently acts according to what he genuinely believes to be the right thing, despite the political consequences. You can see this in things on which I strongly disagree with him, such as Middle East / war policy or global warming (though he may be coming around on that a little), but I also see it in areas where he and I are much more in agreement (immigration reform) or where I am ambivalent (stem-cell research). I may not be happy with the thinking behind his convictions - I may think them shallow, simplistic, or just horribly wrong - but I generally have to say that my impression is that his convictions are heartfelt, and that he tends to act on them - not just according to the political winds.

So in the case of immigration reform, it seems to me that his years in Texas spending time around immigrants - legal and otherwise - has led him to an understanding of the realities of the situation that is informed by both experience and compassion, and that he is determined to support a right course, as he sees it - his conservative "kick 'em all out" base be damned.

And in the case of stem cell research, it is my impression is that he is acting out of genuine moral concern that we not go somersaulting down the slippery slope toward the mass production of human embryos for medical purposes. Honestly, I'm not sure where I'd draw the line on this stuff, but I respect his desire to be cautious in this area, despite the tide of public opinion and political pressure from all directions.

I'm not saying Bush is a good leader, or what our country needs. I don't think either of those are true. All I'm saying is that I must admit that I think he's remarkably authentic for a politician - a man of convictions in a town full of professional sellouts. So while I have never been a Bush supporter, and likely never will be, I also try to avoid making him the butt of jokes. My best hope for Bush is that his relative success as a President might inspire someone whose convictions I actually agree with to stand their guns in Washington and lead strongly and authentically.

Not quite sure I'm seeing that on the horizon, though. Obama? Gore? Beuller? :-)


Jayce from Rochester said...

I don't think that "sticking to your convictions" is more than a trait -- neither positive nor negative -- for it can be caused by at least two factors in one's mind.

First, you can "stick to your convictions" because you have thoroughly researched and understand that which you believe. When presented with evidence that contradicts your beliefs, you are able to review your past knowledge and decide whether your beliefs should be adjusted.

Second, you can "stick to your convictions" because you refuse to acknowledge information that disagrees with your beliefs. When presented with evidence that contradicts your beliefs, you immediately think to discredit the source, use logical fallacy, or deny that deductive reasoning is necessarily valid to ensure your beliefs are secure.

The first I believe is good -- what I consider "being open minded." The second is bad, as it's what historically has thwarted progress, created cults, and served only ego gratification.

George W. Bush is squarely in the second camp. Some of his beliefs happen to be valid and true, but when they are not, there is no way to make him face reality.

Ryan said...

I remember clearly in his second campaign when he was characterizing Kerry as a flip-flopper he said something to this effect: You may not agree with what I'm going to do, but you know that if I say I will do something I am going to do it. I thought damn, that is going to resonate with a lot of people and he probably just locked up the election.

Mo Johnson said...

i agree to some extent. on the other hand, he promised to hold people accountable for the valerie plame leak. when the leakers turned out to be his own people -- well, I guess he lost his conviction on that issue.

for that matter, when he ran in 2000 he said his admin. would be known for not leaking stuff to the press. Yet, his VP's office ran a whole operation aimed at leaking info favoring admin. policies.