Monday, May 29, 2006


I was thinking of something to post recently, when PL sent me a link to President Bush's speech to the 2006 West Point graduates. Having witnessed the speech in person, and not having any agenda (this time), I thought I would comment.

Bush's speech was a little disappointing. It focused so very little on the graduates themselves and seemed like an affirmation of his values. To me, West Point seemed like a poor place to pimp the War on Terror because these graduates were committed to serving the United States. West Point gives cadets plenty of reasons to drop out if my brother-in-law's stories are to be believed.

In addition, Bush compared himself to Harry Truman. Setting aside all of Marty Kaplan's conservative bashing rhetoric, his main point is true: that is a bit of a stretch from a policy standpoint. Not many similarities in the Bush and Truman Doctrines. American opponents were seen by civilians differently (nearly unanimously as liberators in France, with mixed reaction based on religion in Iraq). I cannot clearly say that money was not misspent in aid packages for the Marshall Plan, but I would be shocked to learn the corruption or money mismanagement was as bad as it is in reconstructing Iraq.

But these are all policy issues that I am critiquing. Bush has been reading Truman's biography, and he knows of similarities in their presidencies. Most people viewed Truman's presidency as an accident (indeed it was if you read about the Democratic National Convention of 1944 when Truman was nominated as Roosevelt's running mate). Clearly, the 2000 election would be viewed by some in the same way (and in a much harsher light but some bitter others). Truman was frequently mocked by the establishment as being unqualified for the presidency (their favorite term was "failed haberdasher"). They were also men of conviction.

As a whole, Bush's speech was too long and filled with stretches of the imagination. But I wouldn't expect a commencement address (especially what was essentially a policy speech) to focus on the less than favorable aspects that Truman and Bush shared. Also, no matter how much I disapprove of his handling of domestic or foreign issues, it was pretty cool to see the President, and his enormous security detail. It makes me much less pessimistic about the security of this country when I see the amount of planning going into making one man safe.