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Monday, November 22, 2004

Perspective: Natan Sharansky, Condi Rice, And George W. Bush

When Natan Sharansky stepped into Condoleezza Rice's West Wing office at 11:15 last Thursday morning, he had no idea the national security advisor would soon be named the next secretary of state. He was just glad to see her holding a copy of his newly published book, The Case for Democracy.

Sharansky, a self-effacing man who spent nine years in KGB prisons (often in solitary confinement) before becoming the first political prisoner released by Mikhail Gorbachev, hoped it had to do with his brilliant analysis and polished prose.

Rice smiled. "I'm reading it because the president is reading it, and it's my job to know what the president is thinking."

A close friend of the president had sent over a copy several weeks earlier with a note urging him to take a close look. The president nearly polished it off during a weekend at Camp David, then suggested to Rice that she read it as well.

For nearly 40 minutes, Rice engaged Sharansky — now an Israeli cabinet member — and co-author Ron Dermer, a former columnist with the Jerusalem Post, in a discussion over how best to help democracy take root in such hard soils as Iraq, Iran, and the West Bank and Gaza.

At precisely 2 P.M., Sharansky and Dermer were ushered into the Oval Office for a private meeting with the president. They were scheduled for 45 minutes. They stayed for more than an hour. What the president told Sharansky was off the record. What Sharansky told the president was not.

"I told the president, 'There is a great difference between politicians and dissidents. Politicians are focused on polls and the press. They are constantly making compromises. But dissidents focus on ideas. They have a message burning inside of them. They would stand up for their convictions no matter what the consequences.'

"I told the president, 'In spite of all the polls warning you that talking about spreading democracy in the Middle East might be a losing issue — despite all the critics and the resistance you faced — you kept talking about the importance of free societies and free elections. You kept explaining that democracy is for everybody. You kept saying that only democracy will truly pave the way to peace and security. You, Mr. President, are a dissident among the leaders of the free world.'"

From one of the most famous dissidents of era of the Evil Empire, such is not faint praise.

Among many valuable lessons from this article, one stands out. The left needs to get over their constant chatter that George W. Bush is dumb, or led by others. Their insistence on this stance makes them look incredibly stupid, and causes one to discount any substantive arguments they may have. In part, the Left is losing influence because stories like the above are getting out, despite the MSM's most ardent attempts to keep them quiet.

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