Critics of the President often say that he ran as a uniter, but has been a divider. I equally often wonder what this means.
What does it mean to say we are divided? Sure, we have opposing, even polarized, views on many issues of the day. But hasn’t this always been the way? Surely when Mr. Bush promised to be a uniter, he wasn’t pledging to get everyone to agree about everything.
I suppose critics would point to the “tone” of the debate. There certainly is a lot of vitriol and hate in the political air. But let’s be honest: Is the source of that that venom the President or is it those who oppose him? How often have you heard the President calling those who disagree with him cowards, claiming they betrayed their country, comparing them to Hitler? And short of surrendering his principles, and abandoning the policies he campaigned on and believes in, is it realistic to suggest that the President could do or say anything that would soothe the types of people who make such attacks?
So, what was the President promising when vowed to unite? He was promising leadership. He was promising to act in good faith. He was promising to work with his opponents in Congress to seek solutions.
The record shows that Mr. Bush has done that. He extended a hand to Senator Kennedy to draft the most significant education reform in decades, and united Congress in bipartisan support for this bill. He led Congress in providing prescription drug benefits to Medicare recipients—something previous presidents talked about, but none accomplished. He united the country and the Congress in bipartisan support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It’s true that Bush is now criticized sharply for the very ventures his opponents collaborated with him on. But time and again, he demonstrated leadership in building support on important and divisive issues. That, I submit, is the mark of a uniter.