Life is Bigger Than Politics

COMMENTARY Civil Society

Life is Bigger Than Politics

Nov 5, 2004 4 min read

"There's an old saying, 'Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.'"

George Bush's acceptance speech to the nation was brief. His inclusion of the sentence above exemplifies the man and shows why he received more votes for president than any other candidate in our nation's history.

That simple statement reflects the humility, faith and calling of George Bush. It reflects his quiet confidence and the maturity of knowing that in order to live up to the task of being an effective leader of the free world, one cannot chart his course by the latest public opinion polls or the demands of nations that do not share America's core values of freedom and personal responsibility.

Twice now, George Bush has been through protracted periods of electoral uncertainty that would cause most folks to grow bitter, or at the very least, to become stressed out. I don't know about you, but during the post-election trauma of 2000 - those many weeks of chad counting, accusations, lawsuits, etc. - I couldn't help but be struck by how calm he remained - how decidedly unworried he was. And although this election result was delayed by less than a day, I was again struck by George Bush's concern for his father - rather than his re-election prospects - when he described how, at 3:30 a.m. on election night, he advised his anxious dad to go to bed.

My goodness, I didn't even climb into bed until after 5:00 a.m., yet the president was calm enough to shuffle his family members off to sleep on the biggest night of his life? How is he able to do this? One reason is because he has stated that the same dad he sent to sleep taught him long ago that "life is bigger than politics."

"Life is bigger than politics." This is an astounding statement from a political figure who has been twice elected as the most powerful man in the world. But it is precisely because the American people know that George Bush understands what is of value that they have given him a mandate and the privilege of power. America knows that for George Bush, being president isn't about politics … it's about life itself.

Of course, the faith and fortitude that has come to characterize George Bush was most vividly evident in the days immediately after 9-11. The world saw a president who was calm, determined, resolved and absolutely committed to fighting evil. And the same demeanor has been continuously evident ever since through all the difficult and gut-wrenching days of war and criticism.

George Bush is not the world's best debater or smoothest talker. We all love a great speech, a witty debate, a clever comeback. But what we desire - what we need in this age of uncertainty - is a leader who lives his faith, adheres to core principles and remains steadfast in the face of adversity.

The individual words George Bush uses are not always smoothly delivered, but they reflect the stuff he is made of. Words like "duty," "resolve," "strength," "persevere," "vision" and "faith" repeatedly pop up when he is asked questions about his policies. And George Bush's record shows that he doesn't just use the words to get votes ... he demonstrates those values in his everyday life and makes them the core of his policies.

George Bush dares to "protect the institution of marriage," dares to take measures to "create a culture of life" and dares to risk all the power and prestige of his office in order to "promote freedom around the world." But here's the rub: To him, it's not a dare at all. It's just what he believes, so he does it.

The liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which has long dominated its leadership, seems stunned that a clear majority of Americans chose to re-elect a president that exudes courage, confidence and a faith that is so easily identifiable. They are scratching their heads at the polls which reveal that the issue that mattered most to voters in this election was not the economy, or security - but moral values.

But so far, the strategists are missing the point. Liberal Sen. Chris Dodd had this to say the day after the American people rejected his party and his candidate, "We must think long and hard about what happened yesterday. We were on the right side on the issues ... but we lost our ability to connect to people on values. We have to get that back."

Someone needs to tell the senator that the values one believes in and the positions on issues one takes are inextricably interwoven. If the positions you take on issues are contrary to the values of the people, you will always find it difficult to "connect" with them.

David Broder of the Washington Post had this to say about his many discussions with Democrats the day after the election: "Time and again, Democrats' comments yesterday circled back to the need to restore the language of values to the party's rhetoric and to try to reconnect with people of faith."

As I have written before, gaining support from people of faith doesn't come from using the language of faith or values; it's about believing in and incorporating those values into your policies. People of strong faith will not be duped - they know when a candidate cares more about the clever use of words than he does about their values.

"Life is bigger than politics." Indeed.

Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation.

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