“A side by side comparison of Presidents when they enter office and when they leave office is physical proof of how demanding the job is…”
Amid the flood of posts remembering 9/11 this year, a friend of mine posted a criticism of George Bush’s initial reaction to the attacks on Facebook. For those of you who are not aware, then-President Bush was informed of the severity of the plane crashes, and the fact that they were an actual attack on the United States, while he was reading a book to a classroom full of elementary students in Florida. He chose to remain calm and finish reading the story before rushing off to learn the details of what was happening, a decision that has been criticized by many of his detractors.
The students who were there that day feel he did the right thing. They remember sensing that something was wrong, and in an article by the Times, many of them state that they would have been much more frightened if President Bush had rushed out of the room before finishing the story. They feel he made the right decision.
In an interview with the Former White House Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, who famously delivered the news to President Bush that day, he talks about his decision to inform the president about what was happening and the specific words he chose. He, too, knew that the situation needed to be handled delicately as the president was seated in front of a large group of young children and the press. He decided to keep his message short, and succinct. He also expressed the fact that he didn’t want to ask the President any questions, and that he chose to quickly step away after delivering the news.
It wasn’t that Bush liked his Chief of Staff to be succinct and to the point. At one point during the interview, Card says;
“I was very, very cognizant of the burden the president was carrying and his desire to have perfect knowledge, and it was never going to be there. It would always be, ‘Mr. President, this is all the information we have as of right now. Some of it may not be right, but you’ve got to make some tough decisions.’”
That’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it?
That day in front of the press and a group of elementary school students, President Bush had to make a very tough decision. Did he leave abruptly to attend to the news that America was under attack, or stay and finish the story? Would he unnecessarily scare the group of children sitting in front of him if he left without finishing? Ultimately, he decided that spending an extra few minutes with the children was the correct decision.
I personally feel President Bush did the right thing by spending a few extra minutes with those children that day. Realistically, there was nothing he could have done as the president in those few minutes that would have reduced the severity and destruction of the attacks that day. In all likelihood, there was still a lot of intelligence to be gathered at that exact moment, information that the president would need to make an informed and intelligent decision on what the next move should be.
The events of that day were truly tragic and will live on in the memories of everyone who was alive and old enough to remember them.
It seems to be a tradition in this country for people to criticize every single move made by an acting or former president that affiliates with the opposing party. Democrats relentlessly criticize Presidents Bush and Trump while Republicans constantly lambast Clinton and Obama. It’s almost this ugly side of our nature that we can’t seem to escape, or maybe we don’t want to? After all, what would the media have to talk about if not a constant stream of gossip over who was criticizing who?
Yet, the role of President of the United States is arguably one of the toughest jobs in the world. We limit the presidency to two terms of four years each in part because it is such a difficult job. A side by side comparison of Presidents when they enter office and when they leave office is physical proof of how demanding the job is, those in office physically age at an increased rate due to the stress of the major and difficult decisions that they have to make on an almost daily basis.
Why must we criticize them at every turn?
Those who take on this role recognize how difficult the position is, and there is a tradition where an outgoing president leaves a note of encouragement to an incoming president. A note that is likely pulled out during difficult times as a reminder of those who have dealt with the difficulties of the role before. There is no criticism or negativity in these letters, even when the incoming person holds different beliefs and values than the outgoing person. It is all about respect and support for the journey that lies ahead.
I don’t agree with all of the decisions made by past presidents, even those that I voted for. I have been disappointed by the actions of past presidents, and at times deeply unhappy with the decisions they made. I am sure that our current president will make decisions that I ultimately disagree with as well.
Respect the gravity of the role, and respect the person who has taken that role on.
But I am not there, in their shoes, making the difficult decisions that they have to make with the information and knowledge that they have. I frankly don’t think I would ever want to be. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I’m sure that those who have served as President of the United States have looked back at some of the decisions they made and wished that they had done something differently. They also probably look back at some of the decisions they are criticized for and think that they would have done the same thing in spite of those criticisms.
As average citizens, we cannot know what it is like to be faced with those decisions every day. We cannot put ourselves in their shoes and say we would have done differently based on the information we get from the media, especially when that information is from facts that came out after the decision was made.
Ultimately, we should realize that the President of the United States is a human being and that they will make mistakes. Hopefully those mistakes do not put our country at risk, and ultimately, the person inhabiting that role has volunteered and been chosen to take on one of the hardest jobs in the world based on the fact that a majority of our country believes that they can do a good job. In the end, even when the president makes a decision we do not agree with, we should respect that decision as one that is made by someone who wouldn’t be in the position they are in if they did not want to do what is best for our country.
Please, stop wasting so much negative energy on nitpicking every action of the President. Respect the gravity of the role, and respect the person who has taken that role on. If you really want to change things, get involved and see for yourself how hard the job really is. Until then, take a step back and give the role the dignity it deserves.