Roundtable with a President by James M. Kushiner

Roundtable with a President

by James M. Kushiner

Roundtable participants:
Sheryl Henderson Blunt (Christianity Today)
James V. Heidinger II (Good News)
Deal Hudson (Crisis)
James M. Kushiner (Touchstone)
David L. Mahsman (The Lutheran Witness and Reporter)
Richard J. Neuhaus ( First Things)
Marvin Olasky (World)
Russell Shaw (Catholic writer)
Stephen Strang (Charisma)

Early on the afternoon of May 26, 2004, after passing through a metal detector, sending my portfolio through an x-ray machine, and being wanded twice by a security guard, I entered the White House grounds and was escorted with several others into the foyer of the West Wing. Two days earlier, I and eight other Christian publishers and journalists had been invited to a meeting at the White House with the president.

After 30 minutes, we were invited into the Roosevelt Room, but asked to leave our luggage and bags outside.

War & Questions

Once inside, I admired a Nobel Peace Prize mounted on the wall, given to Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for his role in brokering peace in the Russo-Japanese War. Teddy the Rough Rider had a reputation as a gung-ho warmonger, but the peace prize balances that out.

And TR certainly came to know the cost of war himself, and not only from his own experiences as a soldier. Losing a son in World War I left him a deeply grieving father, heart-broken and sobered by the death war brings.

After a few minutes, President Bush, our own warmongering president—if you believe the newspapers—arrived on schedule, shook everyone’s hand, and sat down across the table to tell us “a little bit” of what was on his mind. “Obviously Iraq’s on my mind,” he began. (See?)

He spoke about the difficult process of “transferring full sovereignty and freedom” and promoting democracy in Iraq, since “these are people who have lived in tyranny; they haven’t developed the habits of free people yet.” He mentioned his belief in a “clash of ideologies,” and the need to fight terrorists intent on using “the corruption of religion to suit their purposes.”

He then shifted into war rhetoric:

We will use every asset to prevent an enemy from attacking us again. . . . I will not yield to them, to their blackmail, to their murder, to the fear they try to cause through death.

James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.

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