George W. Bush said he intended to focus on domestic issues during his presidency. However, the 9/11 terrorist attacks instantly forced a change in plans. He addressed the country from the Oval Office and buoyed the nation’s spirits, as we regained our footing and began to look ahead.
His Gallop approval rating peaked at 90% following the attacks, but fell to a low of 25% near the end of his presidency. Many Republicans pointed to the collapse of his public support as a reason for the party’s 2006 midterm losses. Bush, however, was seemingly unconcerned with how the media and others perceived him. He understood that Presidents make the toughest decisions and that unlike contemporaries, historians take a longer view.
The first major choice a presumptive Chief Executive makes is picking their running mate. Aside from agonizing over putting our military into harm’s way, choosing a Vice President is arguably the most important because it shows their thinking, priorities and illustrates how they view their working relationship. By tabbing Cheney, Bush showed he trusted the former Congressman, and Secretary of Defense who previously served as Chief of Staff for President Ford, to succeed him if the worst should happen.
Being President of the United States isn’t easy. Given the benefit of hindsight, I’m sure he’d have made a few changes, although I disagreed on a few policy items I can still say that I was proud to vote for him twice. I felt as though he and his cabinet made decisions in the best interests of our county, placing its people and our values ahead of their personal agendas.
I couldn’t say the same about Donald Trump.
While I appreciated his unconventional campaign and ability to connect with voters, I found Trump’s hyperbolic nature only distracted from his otherwise shallow understanding of policy. I’ll leave it to historians to view his time, though as a conservative, I remain unimpressed.
Still, I never questioned his legitimacy as President.
Republicans lost 41 seats in the House in 2018, and although he should have, Trump failed to shoulder any of the responsibility for the historic losses, the largest for a Republican President since the 1974 midterms following the Watergate scandal.
In February 2021 on the Senate Floor, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the Senate about the Jan. 6, Capital riots, when supporters of President Trump attempted to overturn the results of a legitimate election.
“President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said.
He has since softened his remarks for political reasons, but as the Vice Chair of House Select Committee’s Congresswoman Liz Cheney is among those tasked with investigating the events of that terrible day. Stripped of her role as Republican Conference Chair, Cheney continues to talk about the insurrection.
“The GOP must be loyal to Trump or to the Constitution, but we cannot be both,” she said.
With both parties unable to recognize it, I hope Cheney continues to advance, because she’s already demonstrated what true leadership looks like in the face of adversity.