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The mile-deep gusher at BP’s offshore oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has ended President Barack Obama’s proposal for new offshore oil drilling, just as surely as the collapse of the stock market, and the housing and credit bubbles, snuffed out President George W. Bush’s plan to invest Social Security funds in the stock market.
In the wake of the BP oil disaster, thousands of people chanting “Drill baby, drill,” would seem surreal.
Thus are presidential policy options narrowed by unpredictable forces. Leaders deal with the world as it is, not as they wish it to be.
Events not only narrow a president’s choices; events can change the direction of a president’s attention, like a river cutting a new channel. Events can force a president’s hand, as war forces a choice between guns and butter.
It is left to great men to answer the question: “What do we do now?” And then to do it well.
Great men affect history by choosing wisely among limited options. Even more, perhaps, great men affect history by thoroughness of planning and excellence of implementation. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower became great because he thoroughly planned and successfully implemented the invasion of Normandy.
George W. Bush became a bungler because he made the wrong military decision, war in Iraq. Then he compounded the error by failing to plan and implement the war.
Abraham Lincoln made the right choices, but would he be considered a great president if he had lost the Civil War?
Now President Obama’s policy initiatives at home appear increasingly limited by political and economic realities. I hope that events do not force the president to turn his attention to war.
— John Hayden