Eight years ago, about the time George W. Bush was sworn in, I recall telling a friend in my old synagogue that while I thought Bush would be a good president, I was concerned how he would be on Israel. His father, after all, had been quite a disappointment, appointing officials to the State Department who harbored a deep animus against the Jewish State.
But, as Bill Kristol points out in his latest New York Times column, the former president did not harbor such animus, indeed, proved to be a good friend of this democracy in the Middle East.
Bush stood with Israel when he had no political incentive to do so and received no political benefit from doing so. He was criticized by much of the world. He did it because he thought it the right thing to do.
It wasn’t just Israel where Bush showed courage, even when it gained him no political benefit. Kristol calls winning the war in Iraq “Bush’s most impressive achievement:”
. . . in particular, his refusal to accept defeat when so many counseled him to do so in late 2006. His ordering the surge of troops to Iraq in January 2007 was an act of personal courage and of presidential leadership. The results have benefited both Iraq and the United States. And the outcome in Iraq is a remarkable gift to the incoming president, who now only has to sustain success, rather than trying to deal with the consequences in the region and around the world of a humiliating withdrawal and a devastating defeat.
President Obama would do well to recall his predecessor’s courage in these endeavors. Sometimes leaders have to buck popular opinion and eschew political gain to do the right thing.