“The cameras mostly focused on Volodymyr Zelensky during his address to Congress on Wednesday night, but I focused my attention as much as I could on the audience in the room. There was fervor, admiration, yelling and whooping. In a divided nation, we don’t often get to see the Congress rise up, virtually as one, with ovations, applause, many in blue dresses and yellow ties.
Sure, there were dissenters in the room, but they were not what mattered. Words surged into my consciousness that I haven’t considered for a while — compatriots, comrades, co-believers in a common creed.
Zelensky and his fellow Ukrainians have reminded Americans of the values and causes we used to admire in ourselves — the ardent hunger for freedom, the deep-rooted respect for equality and human dignity, the willingness to fight against brutal authoritarians who would crush the human face under the heel of their muddy boots. It is as if Ukraine and Zelensky have rekindled a forgotten song, and suddenly everybody has remembered how to sing it.
Zelensky was not subtle about making this point. He said that what Ukraine is fighting for today has echoes in what so many Americans fought for over centuries. I thought of John Adams, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, George Marshall, Fannie Lou Hamer, the many unsung heroes of the Cold War. His words reminded us that America supports Ukraine not only out of national interest — to preserve a stable liberal world order — but also to live out a faith that is essential to this country’s being and identity. The thing that really holds America together is this fervent idea.”
“. . . . American policy has oscillated between a hubristic interventionism and a callous non-interventionism. “We overdo our foreign crusades, and then we overdo our retrenchments, never pausing in between, where an ordinary country would try to reach a fine balance,” George Packer wrote in The Atlantic recently. The result has been a crisis of national self-doubt: Can the world trust America to do what’s right? Can we believe in ourselves?
Finding the balance between passionate ideals and mundane practicalities has been a persistent American problem. The movie “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis was about that. Lincoln is zigging and zagging through the swamps of reality, trying to keep his eye on true north, while some tell him he’s going too fast and others scream he’s going too slow.
Joe Biden has struck this balance as well as any president in recent times, perhaps having learned a costly lesson from the heartless way America exited from Afghanistan. He has swung the Western alliance fervently behind Ukraine. But he has done it with prudence and calibration. Ukraine will get this weapons system, but not that one. It can dream of total victory, but it also has to think seriously about negotiations. Biden has shown that America can responsibly lead. He has shown you can have moral clarity without being blinded by it.”
David Lindsay: Great column Mr. Brooks. Here are the three most liked comments:
At long last. A recognition that neither smooth oration nor tough talk matter. What both Biden and Zelinsky do is lead from the heart with competence, confidence, courage, and calm. It’s making all the difference. Thank you, David, for giving credit where credit is due.
Joe Biden has done a great job given the cards he was dealt. He inherited a mess and has steadily just been cleaning up the mess. He has not gotten nearly enough credit for just being a good steward. Life gets a lot worse when there is bad stewardship.
I actually love President Biden with all my heart. He’s been doing the right thing since taking office, he has a team that earns my respect and his policies are leading the US in the right direction. The war in Ukraine is an existential fight between good and evil and I am so very proud we are on the right side.