I watched 60 Minutes this evening and saw President Bush’s interview. A few thoughts:
– I watched him squirm during the discussion of Saddam Hussein’s hanging video and how he didn’t want to watch the actual hanging. If we can’t watch the consequence of what we have done then isn’t it possible that the thing we have ordered is wrong? Isn’t facing consequences what every one of Jesus’ followers is to do? I don’t understand it.
– There was a small section of interview with him right after he came back from being with the families of some of those who had been killed in Iraq. The President was quieter and stiller and meeker and more thoughtful. Everyone in America should watch that snippet of tape because in it you finally, finally catch a glimpse of a compassionate and caring man. I am not saying that everyone needs to agree with him – I certainly don’t – but I am saying that it is important to understand that he feels this war. It is making him old. As a military friend admonished me over the weekend, “War kills presidents, look what it did to FDR, look what it did to LBJ.” No matter how flippant he may appear sometimes – and flippant he does appear – he is a man who does feel every bit of this war.
I remember one afternoon in late 2003. The war was on and it was going well. But troops were dying, our country was at war, and on that day a lot of soliders had been lost. I was walking through the basement of the “residence” (the main White House building) and saw him walking down the long, broad hall towards me. His head was down. I’d seen him countless times before and there was usually a grin, a wisecrack, something. That day, that afternoon, he looked broken, exhausted. He passed by me and I just turned and watched him. He strolled quietly another 30 feet and then a steward opened a door for him. His head shot up, the Texan was back, “Hey ya! How you doin! Thanks!” and then he was off for the Oval, back to being W. I’ll never forget that moment that was far weightier than I have the ability to describe. And I won’t forget it because it reminded me of those stories told about war time presidents strolling the halls in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, praying to God, realizing that with every step people were dying – dying because of decisions that they had made.
None of this makes any difference to troop surges or drawdowns or anything else – but it is always good to better understand the humanity of our leaders no matter how we feel about what they have decided.