It's hard to keep up with you guys!
First things first. Bret, you asked for examples of political leadership. Following are a few examples. Note that I'm not saying that all of these were for great or noble purposes, but, because "common sense" was against them happening, they probably wouldn't have happened without leadership. And, yes, by and large, they have had lasting impacts - in most cases, arguably, for the betterment of the majority of the governed.
- FDR's response to the Depression - creation of safety net, managing the response of business leaders, etc.
- JFK's creation of the Apollo program (which was so well and simply articulated that it lived way beyond JFK himself)
- Johnson's shepherding of civil rights
- Nixon's opening to China
- Carter's dogged persistence at Camp David with Egypt and Israel
- Reagan's shove of the Soviet bloc over the economic abyss by continuously upping the military ante
- Yeltsin's staring down the forces of chaos
- Mandela's transformation of South Africa
- Clinton's welfare to work program
Note, however, that cutting taxes or rolling back regulations in favor of your primary campaign contributors does not require leadership. Dealing with the consequences of a revenue and expenditures situation that is way out of balance will require leadership. Bush seems unwilling or unable to deal with either side of this equation.
One could argue that G. W. Bush taking us into this Iraq War, unilaterally, was an act of leadership. One whose ultimate benefits are still very much in doubt even as costs -- human and financial -- continue to rise. It is not inconceivable that this still could turn out well for the average Iraqi citizen, and I would be pleased if it did. However, I am completely devoid of trust in the competence of this president to make it so. Like Afghanistan, I anticipate a gradual sliding into chaos and fundamentalism as our financial and philosophical commitments wane. This will serve the purposes of terrorists. In case you haven't checked lately, life is still a piece of shit for your average Afghani woman. The warlords are relatively happy, though.