George W. Bush: Failing upward
President George W. Bush continues to experience the phenomenon of “failing upward.” By his own admission he failed early in life to use alcohol appropriately. He says, “Laura told me it was a choice of Jim Beam or her. I chose her.” His decision to never touch alcohol again was a life-changing experience. In that sense, he failed upward.
Although Bush graduated from Yale University with a higher grade point average than that of fellow Yale graduate, John Kerry, Bush’s near failure at Yale prompted him to succeed at the prestigious Harvard Business School where he earned the coveted M.B.A. degree.
Following primary and advanced U.S. Air Force flight training, Bush was selected to fly the super-sonic F-102 interceptor. In flying that complex aircraft he succeeded; however, he failed in the sense that we needed fighter-bombers, not interceptors, in Vietnam. Bush volunteered twice to go to Vietnam, but the F-102s were under the operational control of North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). In later years, that twist of fate became a political negative.
In between Yale and Harvard, George W. Bush went into the oil business. Taking time out from drilling dry holes, he ran for Congress. He won the GOP primary; however, he failed in the general election and went back to an energy business that was suffering from the oil price declines of the 1980s.
Following his father’s election to the presidency (Bush 41), he succeeded in forming a partnership to purchase the Texas Ranger baseball team. While the Rangers succeeded in creating favorable, state-wide publicity for Bush, the team failed to win a World Series
Then, Bush found his forte: Texas politics. Bush served two terms as Governor of Texas.
Now, with just 16 months to go as President of the United States, Bush 43 continues to fail upward. While the Congress and various study commissions have concluded that the failure to foil the 9/11 plot was largely due to Clinton’s preoccupation with other matters, the Bush Administration did have eight months in office prior to 9/11.
But Bush 43 failed upward once again. His response to the Taliban’s harboring and promotion of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was masterful. General Tommy Franks made brilliant use of U.S. Special Forces, NAVY SEALS and CIA special operators in helping, primarily, the Afghani Northern Alliance defeat the Taliban.
With another blitzkrieg campaign in Iraq, the U.S. proved, once again, that our all-volunteer force is adept at defeating conventional forces. But the question of whether Bush’s reach exceeded his grasp in Iraq is very much still in doubt.
Despite efforts by liberal Democrats to cut and run out of Iraq and/or deprive our troops of needed ammunition and supplies, Bush may be failing upward in the region because the inter-tribal, inter-religious factions in Iraq have formed a circular firing squad that is more efficient at killing off radical Islamists than our own forces. Unfortunately for the Iraqi people, the transnational jihadists who have infiltrated Iraq are highly efficient at killing innocent Iraqi bystanders.
Now, Bush 43 has been saved by an enraged public whose calls, e-mails and faxes shut down the congressional phone system, prompting the U.S. Senate to overwhelmingly reject an immigration reform bill that exceeded its grasp. Had the Bush-Kennedy-McCain scheme passed, it would have resulted in immigration chaos, tarnishing the Bush legacy for decades to come. In that sense, Bush was saved by his opponents.
Bush 43 has the opportunity to come back with proposals to do what Americans say they want: 1. Secure the borders. 2. Find out who is here. 3. Then, try to figure out who gets to stay and under what conditions.
George W. Bush has a curious capacity for snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat. Perhaps, he learns hard lessons well. Or, maybe, Bush 43 is like the blind squirrel who finds an acorn now and then. Only History will tell.
Syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and a former research fellow at the U.S. Military History Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2006. William Hamilton.