May 12, 2003

Bucking the Odds

President George W. Bush’s dramatic tail-hook landing on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln for a “victory” speech has been much criticized as an expensive political stunt. Surprisingly, the President has avoided the abuse heaped upon presidential candidate Michael Dukakis some years ago after that candidate donned military uniform and helmet to pilot a tank. The consensus then was that Mr. Dukakis merely looked silly. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, has been accused of looking too military in a country where civilians are supposed to be in change, but he otherwise played his Karl-Rove–scripted part quite well.

Allow me to offer another objection. I believe that the President of the United States needlessly (and recklessly) endangered his health and safety by landing as he did on the Abraham Lincoln (and perhaps by training for the landing as well). Mr. Bush apparently felt that the risk was acceptable, given the potential political gain. Citizens, however, can reasonably have a different view. The trauma associated with presidential injury or death is simply too great to justify taking unnecessary chances with a President’s life.

George W. Bush has led a charmed life. His family name has given him opportunities that ordinary people seldom get, even if, unlike Mr. Bush, they work hard for them. His father’s friends have always been there to bail out Mr. Bush from his business failures. And his stubborn political determination has won him victory after victory—including the capture of the Office of the President itself—when any rational evaluation of the odds would have indicated caution.

On the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, George W. Bush dodged yet another bullet. Some day, however, his luck will run out. When that happens, I pray that it is Mr. Bush, his family, and the Republican Party, not the citizens of the United States or the inhabitants of the planet, who will pay for his exalted sense of invincibility. In the end, probability cannot be denied. If the President continues to bet the farm at every turn, his eventual downfall is assured.

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