Michael Barone makes a criticism of the President and his disinclination to justify himself and this war that I've been making for quite some time, too. In making his case, Barone turns to an excellent piece by David Frum at today's National Review Online, but he further says that a model to which the President should be turning is Franklin Roosevelt's famous fireside chats. In those national radio addresses, FDR spoke to the country in great detail about his plans and his rationale in the world war going on around him:
It is generally assumed today that there was some kind of unanimity about World War II. Not really. Roosevelt was criticized for putting a priority on the European Theater over the Pacific; after all, some said, hadn't it been the Japanese who attacked us? Not everyone forgot that many of his opponents charged before Pearl Harbor that he was provoking the Germans and the Japanese to attack us (indeed a strong case can be made that he was). The media of the day was mostly controlled and run by Republicans—some of them like Henry Luce of Time were supporters of Roosevelt's war policies, but others like Col. Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune (then the biggest-circulation broadsheet in the country) bitter critics.I often find myself frustrated at George W. Bush's minimalist approach to resorting to the human aspect of his leadership with regard to the war. "Never complain, never explain" has very much lost its allure with me as a tactic of power. Is it that his advisers have weaned him from his "smoke 'em out of their holes"-type rhetoric because it seems too unseemly? Have they persuaded him that going beyond the usual cant about democracy and bringing us real, live examples of our military's sacrifices and triumphs is somehow speaking too much from the saddle?
Roosevelt clearly kept an eye on his enemies. In May 1940, as resistance to Hitler was collapsing in Western Europe, he noted that "there are a few among us who have deliberately and consciously closed their eyes [to foreign threats] because they were determined to be opposed to their government, its foreign policy, and every other policy, to be partisan, and to believe that anything that the government did was wholly wrong." Later in that chat he warned of a "fifth column that betrays a nation unprepared for treachery."
In July 1943, after the fall of Mussolini, he asserted, "It is our determination to restore those conquered peoples to the dignity of human beings, masters of their own fate, entitled to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. We have started to make good on that promise. I am sorry if I step on the toes of those Americans who, playing party politics at home, call that kind of foreign policy 'crazy altruism' and 'starry-eyed dreaming.'"
Mr. President, Cindy Sheehan is right about one thing ---if only one thing: you need to tell her what her son died for. No one else's justifications will do; only yours have the power to move the world. And you can do it with the greatest possible pride, too, because I know that you know why he did; you simply have to have the courage to explain the higher meanings of this war in concrete ways that everyone can appreciate. Because the macrocosm is within the microcosm. The struggle of one town or one school or one soldier or cop on the beat to rise above the violence and make a positive contribution to the success of Iraq is one worth sharing with all of us.
Anticipate the arguments and pre-empt them, if you can.