You've got to admit it: G-Dub has balls. He steals an election. He unilaterally invades Iraq on pretense of a lie. And now, he's called his shot, practically guaranteeing peace in the Middle East by the end of his term in office. Said Bush: "I believe there will be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office."
Now, politicians are a cautious lot, loathe to make big promises. And fair enough. If you make a promise, there's usually the expectation that you'll deliver. If you don't, there's a pretty big price to be paid at election time. It's a risk most politicians aren't willing to take. They will make promises like "we'll cut taxes one per cent" or "we'll buy some new helicopters". They will almost never make promises like "we'll end poverty in two years" or "we'll cut our carbon emissions by 50 per cent" or "I'll solve one of the most divisive and bloody ethnic and political conflicts of recent history by January 2009".
This leaves us without meaningful comparisons to examine Bush's big prediction. Thankfully, we do have one place to turn for wisdom- the ever-enlightening world of professional sports.
The one thing sports teaches is that guaranteeing victory, and then delivering, is a recipe for instant legend. Take Joe Namath guaranteeing a victory over the heavily favoured Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. 'The Guarantee' seemed like unfounded bluster until Namoth's Jets offed the Colts 16-7 and Namoth won Super Bowl MVP. That's epic. Or when Mark Messier guaranteed victory in Game 6 of the 1994 Rangers-Devils series. He made good on that claim by personally scoring a hat-trick and turning in one of the most badass performances in the history of modern sports. People will never stop talking about that.
On the other hand, an unsuccessful guarantee guarantees that you look like the world's biggest tool. Remember this year when the Miami Dolphin's Joey Porter guaranteed a win over the Oakland Raiders? Tool. Or when Pittsburgh Steeler Anthony Smith guaranteed his team would end the perfect season of the New England Patriots? As one Boston sports writer pithily observed:
"If the Steelers win, Anthony Smith goes down as the boldest young gun since Namath. If the Steelers lose, the Patriots go to 13-0 and nobody remembers the name of the safety who guaranteed victory."
He was right. The Steelers lost, and Smith looks like an uber-tool. An obscure uber-tool.
The sports guarantee reveals something fundamental about human nature: we love an arrogant prick who delivers. We despise an arrogant prick who doesn't. Like Mohammad Ali said, "it ain't bragging if it's true." A successful guarantee displays the kind of swaggering "I'm good and I can prove it" bravura that people go crazy for. A failed guarantee just makes you look like a nervous do-nothing, someone who talks big but has nothing to back it up.
So, if Bush really does help deliver a Middle East peace deal, people will love him, both for pulling the foreign policy equivalent of a last second hail mary pass and having the stones to predict it. If he fails, it will be one more failed promise for a leader with so many failures already on his record. Is Bush a Messier? For the sake of Israelis and Palestinians, I hope so. But based on his past record, it seems far more likely Dubya is just another Anthony Smith.