Jewish World Review March 27, 2002/ 14 Nisan, 5762

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Is it time yet to let Bush be Bush? | It's probably too early for his friends to raise the cry to "let George W. be George W."

But the president should start thinking about what No. 41 let his wise men do to him in '91. That's certainly on the minds of a growing number of his friends.

The White House is clearly losing momentum in the war on terror, which is beginning to look more like "a skirmish on terror" as the anger and thirst for avenging September 11 recedes into memory. The determined young man who came to office with fierce declarations that he would be a different kind of president, making good on his campaign promises, is not only losing momentum but altitude as well.

The free trader imposes 30 percent tariffs on steel, provoking threats of an international trade war. The man who vowed to protect America's borders from the deluge of illegal immigration is peddling an amnesty to a reluctant Congress that is transparently an exercise in raw pandering. The president who vows to fight terror wherever he finds it - even vowing to regard those who harbor terrorists as terrorists - leans on our only friends in the Middle East to accommodate the terrorists who vow to destroy them. The candidate who dismissed John McCain's campaign-finance "reform" as an abridgment of the First Amendment has become the president who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and took as well the advice of the campaign consultants to sign the very abridgment he scorned.

His aides, flacks, flunkies, go-fers and campaign consultants recite his poll numbers as mantra, and why shouldn't they? His approval rating, barely over 50 percent on September 10, holds steady six months later at 80, which is a nice, round number. But George W. should take a Magic Marker from his desk and write, preferably in red ink, the figure "91" on the shiny pate of Karl Rove. That would remind him, every time Mr. Rove pops in with new polling numbers, that 91 percent was what his father had at the end of the Gulf war.

The mellowing of George W. - The Washington Post calls this, with a certain glee, his new "flexibility" - leaves him open to wisecrack rebukes from the likes of Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton's bag man with hardly the standing to criticize anyone, who calls him "a man of his most recent word."

This president's wise men are counting on the war to provide the cover for anything and everything. "The only front-burner issue of the moment is the war," Bill Dal Col, a Republican campaign strategist who managed the Forbes campaign against Mr. Bush in the '00 primaries, tells The Washington Post, "and the other issues become a case of triage."

But making "the war" the mantra carries risks, too, and one of them is that the commander in chief must make sure he keeps enemies and allies straight. Shooting allies just because they get in the way is not nice, and it's bad strategy besides. This president, once so clear-eyed in his vision of what was what and who was who, suddenly seems not so sure that a terrorist is necessarily always a terrorist.

The pressure being applied to Ariel Sharon to let Yasser Arafat, the architect of so much of the misery in the Middle East, ride off to bask in applause at the Arab summit tomorrow in Beirut demonstrates how completely the president has abandoned his earlier view.

Vice President Dick Cheney thinks it's important to get Yasser Arafat to Beirut, and for just the wrong reason. "To date," he told CBS News interviewers on Sunday, "the prime minister has felt he shouldn't go. If Arafat's not there, it's more likely in our view that he'll become the focus of the summit instead of the Saudi proposal."

"The Saudi proposal," of course, is the suicide pill that Prince Abdullah, No. 1 of the 7,800 Saudi princes (the royal wives have produced 200 since breakfast), suggests as the way to finally get a little peace and quiet in the neighborhood. The prince's plan would require Israel to retreat to indefensible 1967 borders, with the solemn promise that the Arab nations would respond with "peace" and full diplomatic relations, and maybe even eventually peace. The word of the Arab nations, as we all know, is worth at least 10 shares of stock in Enron, but this time the bad, the ugly, and the terminally naive insist they really mean it.

A year or so after he left Washington, at the risk of ruining an amiable dinner, I asked the president's father how it was that his wise men could have devised a '92 campaign of such surpassing dumbness. "Well," he replied, with a generosity the men who betrayed him didn't deserve, "I got good advice, and bad advice, and I took all the bad advice." Words for George W. to ponder, and maybe live by.

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

Wesley Pruden Archives

© 2001 Wes Pruden