President Rallies Troops in Florida
The Hiller Instinct: President Rallies Troops in Florida
The wars change, but for all our presidents, the challenge is the same: how to lead.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
"I hate war."
Fifty years after World War II began, F.D.R. is still the model. His honesty inspired and united us.
"At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations..."
Bush, Last Wednesday
Since starting this war a week ago, President Bush has followed or avoided the strategies of other commanders-in-chiefs. Like his father during Gulf War I, he went to Camp David just days after this war began to communicate confidence.
But while TV pictures of the First Gulf War kept the first President Bush "glued to television whenever possible," this war isn't being watched that way in the White House:
"The president may occasionally turn on the TV, but that's not how he gets his news or his information."
Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary, Friday
And now by leaving Washington to rally troops in Florida, Bush seems determined to avoid Jimmy Carter's mistake. During the Iranian hostage crisis, Carter stayed in the White House and appeared paralyzed.
The president that Bush has been most unlike is Lyndon Johnson, who became obsessed with the Vietnam War. L.B.J. went as far as the South China Sea to visit troops and built a scale model of the war zone in the White House. The link was so strong that when Vietnam was lost, so was he…
President Lyndon Johnson, March 31, 1968
"I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president."
So wars can claim White House casualties and when presidents talk about wars, they're talking about elections, too…
"We will prevail."
"We will prevail, make no mistake about that (applause)."
"It's more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms."
It's no coincidence we use the phrases military campaign and political campaign and during war they intersect. That's why presidents never forget the link between the battle front and the home front. The last thing any president wants to do is lose a war. The next-to-last thing is win a war, but lose the White House.