George W, the Gambler: When is a Gamble not a Gamble?

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His critics see George W. Bush as a reckless cowboy, an irresponsible gambler. But a gamble isn’t a gamble when the cards you hold trump anything in your opponent’s hand.

It is not clear at what juncture the truth about the nature of things became clear in the President’s mind. But at some point, he saw. And seeing, he believed: Freedom, liberty, equality and democracy trump dictatorship, tyranny and oppression.

It is not a new truth we have governed for over two centuries guided by a credo that begins with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But years of moral uncertainty, and the rise of relativism, have clouded the thinking of far too many Americans.

The ’60s and ’70s of the 20th century brought doubts and self-absorption to the fore. Then came Ronald Reagan, who reminded us of the greatness of the American Dream, a dream so powerful that it conquered Soviet tyranny and brought down the Berlin Wall.

But like the multi-headed hydra, another totalitarian tyranny rose to replace the defeated one. Now George Bush finds himself confronting the Iron Veil of Islamofacism. But against the voices of a perverted pluralism, he understood that the dream of liberty was a universal element of the human spirit, something put there by the Creator.

Having been liberated from his own self-destructiveness, he understood first hand about the battle between the forces of life and liberty and those of death and destruction. He knew he was holding the winning hand.

And so we have seen Bush keep doubling his bet on liberty.

The escalating challenges of the last three years have called for decisive responses. Good and trusted counselors are valuable in times of crises, but in the final moment of decision it is often instinct and reflexes that must dictate what action to take . . . like a fighter pilot in the heat of combat. In such fast-moving circumstances, there is little time to think; sharply honed instinct becomes critical.

Even in situations where there is time to reflect, the complexities and uncertainties may be so great that, like Eisenhower deciding whether to proceed with the attack at D-Day, logical analysis is stymied and intuition is the final arbiter of our decision. It is not surprising then to hear President Bush speak of the importance of prayer and the need to rely upon the Lord.

Events change us. And the decisions of great leaders in turn change events. Though the President has since toned down some of his comments, many Americans still fondly recall his gut-level response to the terrorist threats when he blurted out, “Bring ’em on.”

You could almost hear a bit of John Wayne’s drawl. There was no nuance. His critics had a field day. But that didn’t keep his reply from resonating with the average American. It was John Paul Jones and nail-your-colors-to-the-mast. It echoed General Anthony McAuliffe’s response to the German demand for surrender at Bastogne: “Nuts.”

Suddenly we felt renewed.

It beautifully expressed the proud, defiant American spirit forged in the battle to tame the uncharted wilderness of the American frontier. Like smoldering embers rekindled by a gust of wind, our pride often dormant since the Reagan challenge at the Berlin Wall flared up brightly in response.

What makes a man with the values, instincts, and reflexes like those of President Bush? The press has chronicled some of his life’s dramatic events. But the character that we see revealed in times of crisis was there already. It had already been formed slowly by more mundane influences and many decisions small and large. The example set by his parents. His wife’s influence. The call of Christ to a new life.

And perhaps something else: The effects of a primal connection to the land.

The sophisticated elites of the urban world see the President’s enjoyment of clearing brush on his Texas ranch as evidence of a pedestrian turn of mind. But looking back in history, we see that George Washington surveyed the wilderness; Lincoln split rail in his youth; Teddy Roosevelt was a man of the outdoors; and Ronald Reagan drew strength from his days on the ranch, chopping wood and riding horseback. Can there be a better tutor on the joy of liberty and freedom than the wide-open skies of the great outdoors, or on the worth of self-reliance than the sweat of manual labor?

Pride of ownership of the land has always inspired. And nothing like exposure to the elements of nature teaches us the fragility of life or its incomparable worth. The land teaches us the simple truth that there is good and there is evil. Coping with its fire and floods teaches us the value-and often the necessity-of friends upon whom we can rely.

Win, lose, or draw, history will be kind to this most American man who has pledged that America will be a friend to those around the world who fight for their liberty. For those with eyes to see, this is the true meaning of Pax Americana.

Not to be forgotten: McAuliffe and his men halted the Germans’ advance at Bastogne.

Dr. Crouse is senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank of Concerned Women for America.

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