Letter to an Outgoing President

[by Rabbi Meyer May, Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and President of the Rabbinical Council of California. This letter was hand-delivered to President Bush a few days ago. The text also appears this week in Hamodia.]

Dear President Bush,

By way of introduction, I am the Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (warm regards to you from Rabbi Hier) and President of the Rabbinical Council of California. I am writing to you from the depths of my heart because how much I wanted to, I was not able to express these sentiments to you in person.

Mr. President, as an Orthodox Jew and rabbi, I am schooled in clarity of focus and a clear unequivocal moral compass which is rooted in my faith. I know someone with such clarity and with such an unequivocal moral compass when I see him. You, Mr. President, have these! Indeed, you have epitomized these qualities never wavering no matter how vicious and hurtful the political and personal attacks have been. No doubt, your faith guided you and you let it!

Your steadfast determination to rid the Iraqi people and the world of the murderous Sadam Hussein, and your recognition of Yasser Arafat for the terrorist that he was demonstrated your crystal clear view of what is just and what is not. Surely, you know what you accomplished in Iraq and history will be kind to you, I am sure, though many in our time refuse to acknowledge your difficult success there. Thank you for your clarity!

And, I am proud that my President showed an infinite compassion for the AIDS victims in Africa. The scale and scope of your efforts in this humanitarian crisis, leaves me further in awe of you and your presidency. Thank you for your humanity!

Mr. President, your response in the wake of 9/11 to the threat to our freedom and every human value we hold dear will long be remembered as one of your singular successes. That our country was not attacked again during your administration is a credit to your leadership and determination to deny evil its victory. Thank you for that clarity, too!

And, Mr. President, your pure unequivocal love for the State of Israel and respect for her enormous accomplishments, despite the constant existential threats she faces, was so beautifully and movingly demonstrated by your memorable speeches I had the privilege to hear when we joined together to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary in Jerusalem. But it was your consistent actions to support her, as late as this week that will forever endear you to me. Your impeccable sense of right and wrong and refusal to allow terrorists to claim moral equivalency with a peace loving democracy like Israel will especially be the hallmark of your tenure as President. Israel had no better friend than you. And the same can be said for the entire Jewish People. Thank you for your devotion!

In short, Mr. President, you have warmed and inspired me and I bid you farewell as my President with a sense of relief for you that you can take a well-deserved break from the helm of our planet, but a tinge of sadness, too, that we will be losing your steady hand and noble, purity of vision as the leader of the free world.

But even in this seamless transition, which is the strength of our great American democracy, you and the First Lady have shown such class
— we Jews call it, “Mentchlechkeit” — as you welcomed my next President and our future First Lady with grace and kindness to their soon-to-be home in the White House. Even to the end of your term, you have leant dignity and honor to your High Office.

Mr. President, you and Mrs. Bush don’t know me, but I hope that you and your elegant First Lady will count me forever among your friends!

Thank you,

Rabbi Meyer H. May

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15 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    George W. Bush is more popular with the frum community than with any other group in America right now. The Republicans repudiated him for raising taxes, increasing the deficit and allowing the stock market to collapse. The Religious Right repudiated him for not doing enough to make abortion in all cases and all circumstances illegal. He has fewer friends than Herbert Hoover at the end of his term. Like Hoover, Bush is an honorable man who presided over a difficult time in our history and didn’t seem up to the task. However, Rabbi May’s sentiments are genuine and ring true. Why then didn’t he let Pollard out?

  2. cvmay says:

    Well written with heartfelt hakaros hatov to a ‘mensch’.

    Any insiders privy to the reasons behind the non-pardoning of Jonathan Pollard?

  3. L. Oberstein says:

    I just saw that I made an error .What I meant to say was “The Republicans repudiated him not raising taxes while, increasing the deficit and allowing the stock market to collapse.He completely abandoned fiscal responsibility.

  4. Bob Miller says:

    Why did he allow the Powell/Rice foreign policy to constantly push Israel into a corner?

  5. Reb Yid says:

    To L. Oberstein:

    You’re probably doing a disservice to Herbert Hoover. Hoover did a yeoman’s job in the aftermath of WWI in getting food to millions of Europeans…he was Commerce Secretary…later, after his Presidency, Truman enlisted him to perform similar work in Europe after WWII.

    Hoover was far, far, more than an “honorable man”…he was a longtime, renowned public servant who was well regarded in other countries…the irony was he couldn’t feed his own people.

    Did you know he also nominated Cardozo for the Supreme Court, crossing party lines to do so?

  6. Tzafania D says:

    A personal letter to Rabbi May,

    You write that George Bush has a strong moral compass and always did what was best for Israel.

    My question to you is: Why did President Bush force the Gush Katif Expulsion on the people of Israel. Why did his strong moral compass not push him with all his might to stop the Government of Israel from committing that awful atrocity?


  7. Chaim Fisher says:

    It’s true, Bush gave beautiful lip service to Israel. But his actions were the total opposite. Bush made Israel withdraw from Gaza; he was also the first president to establish as official US policy a Palestinian state and the splitting of Jerusalem. Those precedents are here to stay. Forever. And the big Israel lover just wouldn’t set Pollard free!

    The frum community loves him because, well, they believe what he says and not what he does…

  8. shaul says:

    Describing our past President with accolades of moral compass, clarity of focus, unequivocal love for Israel, etc.– Why was he so clueless in connecting the dots of 9/11 with his good friends the Saudis? Can it be that the frum world was outwitted by a president whose veins are dripping with oil concerns!!!

  9. YM says:

    President Bush didn’t pardon anyone at the end of his term.

  10. One Christian's perspective says:

    Rabbi Meyer H. May, thank you for writing such a kind, thoughtful, honoring piece on our President. I believe as you might understand that he was President for a time such as this. He is an honorable man who showed courage and commitment toward doing what was right, given information that is not available for public consumption, and inspite of that decision not being political correct on many levels. Like the frum community, he has many friends within the conservative Christian community who understand his moral compass and the need to rely on someone greater than ourselves. Agreed, he had many enemies but I feel they really opposed the values he cherished and of course his faith. The media did their best to rip him to shreds and I see that what they did to him is being returned to them. Did he cause the economic collapse ? No, he did not. I believe the sin of coveting and the encouragement to do by our financial institutions and government elected leaders in Washington were seeds sown and watered long before his terms in office. Yes, he did make mistakes but it is very seldom that an elected leader readily admits his mistakes publically while still in office; he did. I believe President Bush arose to the greater task of seeing evil and bringing about justice and mercy in a world where many sprew G-d out of their lives, cities and land.

  11. Ori says:

    Tzafania: Why did President Bush force the Gush Katif Expulsion on the people of Israel.

    Ori: Did President Bush force the Gush Katif Expulsion on the government of Israel? I don’t recall at the time any indication of US pressure on Olmert’s government.

    Tzafania: Why did his strong moral compass not push him with all his might to stop the Government of Israel from committing that awful atrocity?

    Ori: Last time I checked, Israel was a sovereign nation. If the people of Israel elect a prime minister who makes bad decisions, why do you expect the US to come in and fix things?

  12. L. Oberstein says:

    Herbert Hoover is not really irrelevant,although few people know enough history to appreciate him. His aaproach to the Depression was the opposite of Roosevelt. Hands off vs. gov’t programs. Now 100% of the House Republicans voted against the program to save our country from ruin. All they want is more tax breaks and less gov’t regulation. That is how we got into this mess. The President was a statesman and they were so afraid of their “base” that they did nto budge an inch . To the House Republicans, compromise is a dirty word. Historians say that Roosevelt’s programs didn’t end the Depression either.So, maybe there is no easy way out. However, in a time when we need statesmen, the House Republicans have let all Amercans down. That is what happens when partisanship trumps the needs of the nation. Eric Cantor is going places and some day, all you Jewish Repuboicans will be real proud of him. I know that he has a shomer shabbos brother. Tine will tell. The problem is that the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world want Obama to fail.Shame on them.

  13. Ori says:

    L. Oberstein:Historians say that Roosevelt’s programs didn’t end the Depression either.So, maybe there is no easy way out.

    Ori: Some historians and economists go as far as to say that FDR’s programs caused the Great Depression to be great. There were other recessions and depressions prior to that, in which the government did not intervene. Usually, they ended a lot faster.

    This is probably not the forum for economic discussions that are not specific to the Jewish community, and anyway I don’t know enough to argue this point by point. However, I think judging people favorably is a Jewish concern. Members of the house of representatives who agree with the theory that FDR’s policies prolonged the depression are obligated to vote against the latest economic bailout bill. This explanation of the Republican vote is every bit as likely as the assumption of malice.

    BTW, bipartisanship is not dead. 11 Democrats also voted against this bill too.

  14. LER says:

    Rabbi May’s letter is another example of how many of us in the Orthodox community are willing to give a Republican president a pass on actions for which they would vilify a Democrat. Let’s not forget that George Bush was the first U.S. president to openly call for a Palestinian state without asking for anything in return. (Bill Clinton never made such a declaration publicly.) Also, he pressured Ariel Sharon to accept the “Road Map” and pressured Sharon to withdraw his forces from the West Bank in 2002 after they entered in response to the bombing at the seder in Natanya.

    I also don’t see much “mentchlechkeit” in a president who told Iraqi insurgents who attack U.S. troops to “bring it on”, who refused to give up his vacation time to listen to the CIA’s warnings before 9/11, who was completely unaware of how bad a mess New Orleans was in after hurricane Katrina until an aide sat him down several days later and showed him a DVD of the news (that was especially made for him), or who tells people who can’t afford health insurance that there’s always the emergency room.

    Also, let’s not forget that it was Bush’s “clarity” to get rid of Saddam Hussien that actually left both the U.S. and Israel less safe. As evil as Saddam was, he was Iran’s worst enemy and his threat kept Iran preoccupied. Removing him has left Iran free to both to create all sorts of new problems for Israel and around the globe. Also, because troops and resources were held in reserve for Iraq rather than being sent to Afghanistan, Bin Ladin and the Taliban were allowed to escape to Pakistan and create a worse threat than before.

    I am sorry but I feel there very little for which Mr. bush deserves a “hakoras hatov”.

  15. Ori says:

    LER: Also, because troops and resources were held in reserve for Iraq rather than being sent to Afghanistan, Bin Ladin and the Taliban were allowed to escape to Pakistan and create a worse threat than before.

    Ori: I asked this in a forum that’s frequented by members of the military (KratSkeller in Baen’s Bar, bar.baen.com, if anybody wants to verify).

    The people there claimed Afghanistan couldn’t support a larger number of US troops, due to its bad infrastructure – alos the reason the USSR, may it rest in pieces, couldn’t keep it. Since 2001 the allies built up the Afghan infrastructure to where it will be able to sustain the logistics of a modern military – but that had to be done before committing a large number of troops to the area.

    I can’t prove this is true, but it makes sense.

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