Presidents & Public Opinion

Mario Loyola at The Corner talks about the President and public opinion, contrasting him with his predecessors who bent with every poll.

Conservatives who are piling on the anti-Bush bandwagon should consider that this trait—which makes the Bush family historically great—is a historical rarity to be treasured. This administration would do well to be more concerned with its popularity — the President and even Vice President should appear every week in press conferences and on the Sunday talk shows — if only to strengthen the political viability of their agenda, and be able to shape the terms of debate. But it was not so long ago that Americans could only wish for a president who was obviously trustworthy, upstanding, and principled. And the day is not far off when we will think ourselves lucky to have seen this President defend the honor and integrity of his office—and the American people—for eight years. The times are difficult, and nobody could have gotten through the last five years without making mistakes. But in that station to which God called him, George W. Bush has been himself honestly, and thank God for that.

As a leader in an organization I know the temptation of bending with the polls. In churches we don’t do as many polls as politicians do, but we have an endless line of people offering us opinions. We, like presidents, have a responsibility to listen to people, and that for two reasons that go beyond trying to be liked.

First, we need to recognize we don’t know it all. We can get it wrong. Whether we discover our first principles are wrong or simply our ways of pursuing them, we are dependent on the wisdom of other people, even people who radically disagree with us.

Secondly, if we are true leaders, and not mere dictators, we need to know what our people are thinking so we can engage them where they are. As a pastor I need to know what people people think about past, current and proposed actions. Even if I think their attitudes are completely misguided, my responsibility to lead them compels me to engage with them so I can try to bring them around. President Bush, as many have noted, is clearly not doing an adequate job of engaging with people – either on his own side or the other sides. Giving in isn’t the issue. It’s getting out and making a case for what he thinks needs be done in light of what other people see and say.

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1 Response to Presidents & Public Opinion

  1. John says:

    the President and even Vice President should appear every week in press conferences and on the Sunday talk shows

    On Sunday morning, the President and Vice President should be at church.

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