[OUTLOOK]Don’t underestimate BushA few months after the U.S. presidential election in 2001, a confident President Kim Dae-jung flew over to meet the newly inaugurated President George W. Bush. Mr. Kim had concluded a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il successfully and he had even received a Nobel Peace Prize.
All President Bush had to show in his political career was his time as the governor of Texas. The only trip Mr. Bush had ever taken abroad was to China when his father had been chief of the U.S. Liaison Office there.
Mr. Kim was probably confident that he could eloquently persuade this newly elected president, who was young enough to be his son, and turn him into a supporter of the “sunshine policy.”
However, at the reception room in the White House, President Bush sat President Kim down beside him and launched into a long tirade against the Kim Jong-il regime in Pyeongyang. Not only was this an embarrassing incident for President Kim and the South Korean government at the time, it was pretty embarrassing for many Korean-Americans as well.
President Kim is not the only one who has caused international embarrassment through empty confidence and a tendency to rely on the most basic and formal international knowledge. This is a mistake common to many Korean leaders. It is imperative that we understand President Bush, who has been re-elected to the White House for another four years and will have direct influence on the security concerns of the Korean Peninsula.
First, George W. Bush is more like his mother, Barbara, than his father, the 41st president of the United States. The elder Mr. Bush had served as vice president, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and the chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in China before he was elected president. He had the polished manners of a New England upper-class gentleman.
The younger Mr. Bush was the wild adventurer type, who had earned good money through the oil industry in Texas and as the owner of a professional baseball team in Texas. Although he quit drinking and smoking after he became a born-again Christian in his later years and reads the Bible and prays every day now, he is still a hearty Texan who says what he has to say, like his mother. No matter what others say, George W. Bush does not like the people he does not like and he knows a dictator when he sees one.
Second, President Bush is most certainly not the slow thinker that he is sometimes inaccurately portrayed as in the U.S. and international media. He is an intelligent man who received an elite education at Yale University and Harvard Business School. Harvard Business School students are some of the most competitive in the world. Whether they had gotten in through their parents’ support or through their own abilities, once the students are enrolled, they become very competitive.
After graduating from business school, Mr. Bush, instead of going to work for someone else, went down to Texas and tenaciously set up his own business and became rich.
Third, while everyone from Kim Dae-jung to U.S. media outlets such as the New York Times, CBS and the BBC have constantly underestimated Mr. Bush, he is nothing like they portray him. Just 10 years ago, Mr. Bush was an “upstart” governor who had nothing to show in comparison to the prominent and established politicians in the United States.
Yet he managed to stay governor of Texas for six years and made such achievements that he became the Republican candidate for presidency and overcame several obstacles to become the 43rd president of the United States.
Four years from then, he won a re-election ― something that his father could not do ― with 59 million votes, the greatest number of votes in U.S. history. The 51 percent of the popular vote that he won was far higher than the 49 percent that President Bill Clinton got in 1996 when his popularity was soaring and almost on par with the 53 percent that President Franklin Roosevelt got in 1944 when he was re-elected.
Also, during the 2002 mid-term elections that took place in the early days of President Bush’s first term, the number of Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives grew. This was the first time that a U.S. president in his first term had increased the number of seats for his party mid-term since the Civil War.
This time, too, President Bush not only got himself re-elected, he increased the Republicans’ majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader, who had always led the opposition against bills and federal judge nominees proposed by Bush, was defeated, making him the first floor leader in 52 years to be ousted by his own constituency.
Despite being made a laughingstock by certain elite media firms in the United States and by Hollywood, President Bush is back, bigger than ever with his crushing re-election victory and a stronger influence on the Senate and the House.
He will use his powers both domestically and internationally to promote the interests of his country. This is all the more reason for the Korean government to use all its wisdom toward a comprehensive diplomacy to protect the national interests of Korea.
* The writer is a professor of finance at George Washington University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Yoon-shik