POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Conventional Wisdom

by David Trumbull

August 27, 2004

" must bear constantly in mind the fact that there are two separate and distinct parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. The trick comes in telling which is which. As a general rule, the Republicans are more blonde than Democrats."

--Robert Benchley

Here we go again. A month ago the Democrats convened in Boston. The financial analyses are in, full of conflicting reports of how the DNC affected North End restaurants and other Hub businesses. Depending on whom you believe, the disruption to business was perhaps no worse than a major February snowstorm.

So what of the Republican National Convention in New York City? New York, like ancient Rome, is a vast ocean that swallows up whatever enters it. The political story of August 30 through September 2 will be President Bush's nomination and our party's platform and speakers --not the convention's effect on the host city. It'll help that mayor Bloomberg, unlike Boston's Menino, will not confuse locus for focus and draw attention to himself and his city at the expense of his candidate.

I suppose my comparison of New York to ancient Rome comes of my recent reading of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. The compelling thing about the Lives is Plutarch's over-riding interest in character. He believed that, by observing and copying the character of towering individuals, we too can become great.

In his life of Julius Caesar, Plutarch describes how Caesar, at the river Rubicon, "wavered much in his mind, when he considered the greatness of the enterprise into which he was throwing himself, computing how many calamities his passing that river would bring upon mankind, and what a relation of it would be transmitted to posterity".

Caesar knew that crossing the Rubicon meant war, death, and destruction before he brought about order and lasting peace. Failing to cross would leave Rome a sick state, going from upheaval to upheaval; from one dictator to another, with no hope of restoring a functioning Republic and little hope, save Caesar, of any stable government.

So with the invasion of Iraq, a sick and suffering country. President Bush knew that many, especially in the press, would cavil. He knew the necessary physic would take time to work --longer than the time between U.S. elections. He also knew (had he perhaps read Plutarch?) that a leader takes risks and does the difficult but necessary thing.

Bush's audacious leadership in the international war on terrorism will, for many voters, define the Republicans as the party of adults who face an unpleasant but necessary task and do it. They'll have no trouble telling the Republicans from the Democrats in this election.

David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee; he may be contacted at (617) 742-6881 or Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.