[M]ost Democrats, in particular those running for president, are leading from behind. That raises the question of whether, at the presidential level, it is best to shape public opinion by providing bold, inspired leadership--even, or especially against long odds--or to craft policy decisions in response to the vagaries of public opinion? Clearly these candidates intuitively favor the latter.As I noted in the comments to Mella's post, leadership is about a vision and the fortitude to adhere to that vision, even in the face of overwhelming public opinion. While most people in America, including many in his own party, disagree with what President Bush has done with regard to Iraq (but not Afghanistan although it has the same end goal), few can argue that he has not stuck to his vision of a free and democratic Iraq. His failing may be in the means, but not the ends.
When taken in conjunction with Congressional turpitude and flaccid thinking on this subject, it's evident we're moving towards the strategically thoughtless position of hoping circumstances won't deteriorate in the Middle East. But, as Lady Thatcher astutely noted:
Hope is not an adequate defense.
But here is the interesting fact about President Bush's leadership--it hasn't changed on this matter. If his new strategy in Iraq carries the day, he will be hailed as one of the greatest presidents in American history. He will be viewed as a visionary leader, who stuck to his position despite the public outcry and his vision carried the day. The problem with many of the current Democratic leaders both in Congress and aspiring to succeed President Bush, is that when the excrement his the wind moving device, they would have crumbled, noting that their vision was not the proper one at the time. Thus, leading from behind, following a fickle public opinion to inconclusions, the Democrats would have us believe that such a path is the proper one.
One however need not look furhter than Ronald Reagan, a man who had a vision of a world without the Soviet Union and while it didn't happen in his presidency, it did happen. All of Reagan's policies, foreign and domestic led to the victory over the Soviet Union. He never waivered from his belief and he was roundly chastised for it. Sounds awfully familiar.