The President, The Predicament


Another reader writes:

Just to join the thousands who have tried to psychoanalyze this president:

I think what you have is a man of fundamentally weak character. I mean, we're talking about someone who is essentially afraid of the Washington press corps. Ponder that for a moment and imagine how Al Quaeda must make him feel.

He managed, in the wake of 9/11, to muster just enough fortitude to mount some kind of a response, but, in retrospect, there was never any indication even at the very beginning that he had anything like the stomach that would be required to see it through.

That process would have required literally hundreds of gut-wrenching decisions made under the most extreme pressure. And the clear majority of them would have needed to be wise. Although many of us fervently wished otherwise, it is now abundantly clear that this president has never possessed any of the qualities required to beat this enemy--a fact the enemy surely has not missed.

Thus we are caught in the worst of all possible quandaries. We're governed by a man who had just enough will to start a war but has nothing like the brains or guts required to wage it successfully. And the "opposition"--whether in his own party or the other one--doesn't want to wage it at all.

I fear he's right. One thing that has surprised and vexed me a little: that there haven't been more on the right criticizing Bush for not being serious enough in the terror war. Mark Helprin has occasionally vented. The analyses in the Weekly Standard have sometimes shared this premise, but they have remained civil toward the president, perhaps because the alternative seems even worse. (I endorsed Kerry out of desperation, not enthusiasm.) My own evolving view is that this analysis makes a McCain candidacy much more attractive. He seems to me to be the only figure right now with the determination to fight the enemy, and to do so with sufficient resources, resolve, candor and national unity. As Iran prepares its next gambit, 2008 may, however, be too late.

(Photo: Mandel Ngana/AFP Getty.)