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Power Still Matters Another Vote for Homeschooling

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To Be or to Do

by Christopher Chantrill
May 15, 2004 at 8:00 pm


“I LOVE this job!” crowed President Clinton as he performed across the country on his Presidential Farewell Tour in 2000.  No doubt he did, and now we know why.  After the mid-term elections of November 1994, he decided that his life’s goal was to be President, rather than lead the nation.

The eccentric genius John Boyd couched this presidential decision in more colorful terms.  A man has a choice, he proposed.  He must decide either to Be or to Do, to be somebody or do something.  He can go up through the chairs of his chosen profession, making friends and influencing people, and end up being president of a college, or being president of a great corporation.  Or he can decide to Do.  When he makes this fateful decision, he has probably waved goodbye to a comfortable life, the approval of his superiors, and the adulation of the multitude.  But his “work may make a difference.”

We cannot know what was in President Bush’s heart when he ran for President in 2000.  But we do know this.  In four years, he has aged ten.  The embarrassingly boyish look of 1999-2000 has been transformed into the face of a man on whose shoulders have been heaped all the cares of the world.

Not for President Bush is the luxury of submitting to the emotional roller coaster of media frenzy, to freeze in panic during a desert sandstorm only to exult days later when our boys entered Baghdad, to cower in shame when the media exhibits our warts to the world only to sizzle with rage when they fail to condemn with equal outrage the cruel assassination of an American businessman in Iraq.  He must stay cool and stay on task, directing once more, as American presidents have already done three times in the last century, the war against the eternal gang of ruthless men.

As the battle of Iraq reaches its climactic stage, the moment in every great contest when it seems as if the decision could go either way, we are tempted like the coward Falstaff to wish the day over and all won.  And we cannot know if President Bush is the Prince Hal of Shakespeare, who wasted his youth in dissipation and surprisingly turned out a hero, or the real Prince Hal, who won his spurs the hard way in years of bloody fighting on the Welsh marches before helping his father defeat Glendower and the proud Percys.

Was the settlement in Falluja a humiliating defeat for the U.S. or a cunning way to pitch the Iraqi Sunnis into responsible self-government?  Is the turmoil in the Shiite south a strategic quagmire or an exquisitely timed operation to marginalize the reckless al Sadr and swing the Iraqi Shiites behind their moderate leaders?  Will the Abu Ghraib scandal decide the election against Bush or will the Blame-America-First Democrats rile up the Republican base into a patriotic rage?  Are we witnessing the decisive moves of a brilliant strategy or the clumsy blunders of incompetents overtaken by events?

Stay tuned, because it ain’t over till it’s over.

We may hope that in a hundred years, when the American empire has passed away and the two great world cultures of India and China have regained their old places at the head of the human family and the derivative culture of Islam has obediently subsided into its place as satellite to the Indo-Chinese condominium, that people will say, as Churchill hoped, that this was our finest hour, that we bravely did outface the dangers of the time.

Even if the battle of Iraq ends in messy failure and President Bush is defeated, the objective threat of Islamic terrorism will remain, and the Democrat John Kerry would probably continue the grand strategy of Bush and his team.

In Boydian terms John Kerry has lived his life as a man who wants to Be: a camera-hungry political activist, a United States Senator, a husband to rich women, and now, perhaps, President of the United States.  Who knows what the future holds in store if he were to get to Be president?  One day he would come to a fork in the road.  He would have to decide whether to be somebody or to do something.  He could be like Bill Clinton, who decided he wanted to be President more that he wanted to reform health care, and ended up using his great political talent in a virtuoso escape from impeachment instead of in changing America.  Or he could be like George W. Bush, who may yet end up changing the world.  The history of the United States is filled with lightweights transformed by the office of president into decisive national leaders.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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