Great Leaders Lead, They Don’t Follow

I was reading Tom Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times and it made me think that George Bush faces a very interesting test over the next four years.

Great leaders build legacies by leading their people (whether its a country, a company, or a cause) to do something that was considered impossible.

Nixon went to China.  Clinton restructured welfare.  Johnson passed the civil rights act.  None of these were popular with their politcal base.  But they saw the opportunity to use their political capital to do something that needed to be done and did it.

Friedman quotes Yaron Ezrahi who says about Ariel Sharon, "Sharon has started to give up his popularity among his own constituency, because he realizes the welfare of the Israeli people, as a whole, requires decisions that are unpopular but unavoidable."

I personally cant’ imagine George W. Bush behaving in the same manner.  But if he was suddenly taken with an interest in his legacy, I’d suggest the following intractable problems as ones he could use some of his political capital on:

  • The Israel Palenstine issue
  • True non-partisan election reform
  • Alternative energy
  • Making quality healthcare truly available for all americans

I am not expecting Bush to take on any of these problems with any real energy but I would be happy to see him try.