Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The graciousness of the surrounded

John Podhoretz wants to know if Dems will "match (the) graciousness" Bush showed in his speech last night.
At the political low point of his presidency, faced with a Democratic Congress alternately hostile toward and exasperated with him, Bush struck a tone that was more than merely conciliatory. It was a genuine effort to seek a middle ground on domestic policy, and to offer a plain-spoken explanation for his new warfighting policy in Iraq that took into account the displeasure of many in the chamber with the idea of expanding the number of forces there.

And it was far more successful at both than I would have expected. The opening salute to his ferociously partisan critic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, must have surprised even Pelosi with its generosity. His calm and reasoned discussion of immigration reform - commending a debate "without animosity and without amnesty" - showed great political delicacy.
Hm. I'm not sure how Podhoretz knows that Bush, who has admitted he lies when he wants to change the subject, is now being "genuine." Hell, even he admits that Bush's "new political voice...may not last the week."

Me, it sounded like the "graciousness" of a suddenly repentant Sal Tessio, surrounded and outed as a rat, asking Tom Hagen to get him "off the hook." Or Napoleon boarding the HMS Bellerephon, for "the purpose of throwing himself on the generosity of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent."

It's easy to be gracious (or at least act so), in other words, when you suddenly find that nobody likes you anymore. It's easy to ask people to fight "without animosity" when you're fighting a mob single-handed.

Me, I'm all for reasonable compromise. I don't think that "bipartisanship is another name for date rape"--as Republican anti-tax fanatic Grover Norquist likes to say-- or that Democrats should, a la Newt Gingrich, come up with a list of words to paint our political opponents as "sick...pathetic...traitors," but let's be serious. Bush has been unwilling to compromise in any way since the day he took office. He might act "gracious" now, but to suggest he really means what he says--or, at least, that we can know when he really (honestly, I swear, this time) means what he says--is ridiculous.

Democrats are in power now and they have the support of the American people. Let's see if Bush can continue to act "gracious" as they carry out their agenda.


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