Monday, June 16, 2008


The last year of any Presidents second term can be quite lonely, no longer relevant and cast into oblivion by the winds of change in DC, gone are the daily headlines, televised speeches and incessant questions from the press. It is at this lame duck period that Presidents strive to find a “legacy” a pet project that they can point to to salvage their reputations and avoid a “failure,” or “near failure” Presidential rankings. To cement his legacy, Clinton embarked on a whirlwind diplomacy tour aimed at achieving Middle East peace, Bush has followed the same path, but with the prospects of any real peace being achieved, he is hanging his hat on capturing Bin Laden.

It is quite disconcerting when things like legacy take control of a presidency. When Clinton takes it upon himself to push for Middle East peace as his lasting mark on the presidency, or Bush calls for increased efforts to capture Bin Laden. One wonders why these noble policies could not have been pursued earlier on the presidential term.

The American presidency is such a select group, that successive generations are forced to emulate, and out do previous presidents. The quest is to be the next Lincoln, or FDR, not to be a Buchanan or Johnson. But what the leaders fail to appreciate is that the “greatness” or “worseness” of the past presidents is based on a totality of their efforts as presidents, not just one presidential decree, or presidential policy, Presidents should aim to implement substantial policies from the get go and not wait until the last few months of their administrations to salvage some good.

An effort to capture Osama should have been in place from the get go, what is happening now only feeds to peoples cynical views about Iraq and what it has done to the American focus in the “war on Terror.” Moreover, for a man who says he models himself after Truman, it is difficult to understand why he insists on short term actions to burnish his reputation. Truman was very unpopular when he left office, and it took many years for people to recognize the utility of his policies (especially on foreign policy). If he truly believes that history shall vindicate him, he shouldn't be focused on short term gimmicks. Capturing Bin Laden would be laudable, but it will be seen as a "wag the dog" gimmick, much as Clinton's attacks on Yemen and Sudan in 2000.


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