There He Goes Again
A Commentary By Susan Estrich
There he goes again, fulfilling another promise. Imagine that. When he announced the surge in Afghanistan, he said it was temporary. Democrats, especially liberals, screamed bloody murder. How dare he do what he said he would do during the campaign: focus on Afghanistan, on the threat posed by al-Qaida, on capturing Osama bin Laden, dead or alive?
He went ahead and did all those things, and now he's beginning the troop withdrawal. Osama is dead. Al-Qaida has been drastically weakened.
Imagine. A president who does what he says he'll do: universal access to health insurance, gays in the military, diversity on the courts, even an improving economy.
Who does this guy think he is?
More importantly, what do we think of him?
The polls suggest the president is running ahead of every one of the potential Republican candidates and behind the generic one. Depending on where you sit, the good or bad news is that generic candidates don't run. Real candidates run.
With all due respect (in the law, that means with no respect at all, but I'm trying), sometimes it seems like the pollsters of the world must be calling teenagers instead of grownups. You know how it is with teenagers (and the adult versions who never grow up): What they have is never as good as some imagined ideal out there that keeps them from realizing how lucky they are. They may be dating a very nice boy or girl, but where is George Clooney? At a time when so many people are looking for work and can't find it, the job they have is just not good enough, not as good as the fantasy job they can't exactly describe but must be out there somewhere.
The Republicans have some folks running for president who would never fit into what the late Lee Atwater (the first George Bush's campaign manager and a practitioner of the hardball, without-limits brand of politics) called the little boat that contains the relatively small number of men and women (OK, men back then) whom Americans could even imagine as president.
Sorry, Rep. Bachmann. Your feet are planted firmly on the shore. But Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Chris Christie, to name just three possible or actual candidates, all have the potential to jump in there. Barack Obama is very much in there.
So why is none of these guys doing as well as the generic Republican? Is Romney too Mormon or too liberal? Is Huntsman out because he took the call from the president and served as ambassador to China? What makes the generic Republican so much more attractive than the real ones, and also more attractive than the president who keeps his promises?
We are forever telling politicians they need to grow up, and there are enough of them who do (hello, Anthony Weiner) that the message makes sense. But only to a point. It takes guts and determination and very thick skin to run for president -- and even more of all of the above to serve as commander in chief. No one is going to agree with you all the time. No one is going to avoid mistakes.
Maybe we need to grow up, as well. I feel very lucky to have Obama as president and very proud of the way he is restoring respect for America in the world and setting an example in politics by sticking to his guns and keeping his promises. But I also give credit to the Republicans who are willing to spend the next year living on the road, giving speeches until they're hoarse, rarely seeing their families and getting knocked around by their fellow candidates and the press, because they have ambition and also because they want to serve this country.
There is no such thing as the perfect candidate, which is what the generic polls measure. I wish the real Republicans the best. But I'm with the guy who keeps his eye on the ball and considers promises to be just that.
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