Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Former" President George W. Bush

I almost can't believe it when I hear those words on TV or read them on the Web or in print media. "'Former' President George W. Bush". It should have a nice ring to it, but it doesn't sound real - yet. It should be wonderful to see the most hated President since Nixon dethroned, and even two months and some change after the election, it still hasn't set in that we have a black President now.

Don't get me wrong - besides restraining history as John McCain's biggest and most unfair disadvantage in the 2008 election - race shouldn't have anything to do with Obama as a President. Skin color/pigmentation and racial heritage should be neither an advantage nor a detriment to anybody, but to America as a whole, that for the first time in, well, ever, we've been able to look past race and break another one of the four unwritten rules about what a President must be. Most of us know the legal requirements - 35 years of age, US-born citizen, and a couple others. The four unwritten ones are Protestant, White, Male, and Heterosexual. John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, broke the first one in the 1960s. We got a Catholic President. It didn't affect much. Sure, history will remember him as one of the greats, but not for what he was, but for what he did. Early last year, the Democratic party gave its members a choice as to which of the other three unwritten rules to try to break, race or gender. (And with McCain all but promising to continue everything Bush had started, whoever the Democrats nominated pretty much had it anyway.) They went with race. (I say "they" because I didn't vote in the primaries.) And now we, as a people, have torn down two of the walls the Republicans and other conservatives have built up. I'm fully confident the third one (gender) will be torn down in my lifetime. As for the last one, that will take some doing, but at some point, it will have to be done. Why? Simply because we have a black President now, and that proves that a demographic statistic which was repressed by the conservatives for hundreds of years can, just a short while later, provide a President. The same kind of "people" who repressed African-Americans a hundred years ago or more are alive and well today and have moved on to homosexuals, and if history's taught us anything, it's that these "peoples'" kids learn from their parents' mistakes and general ignorance, and things change.

John McCain was opposed to change. The economy hadn't gotten bad enough, he thought; the war hadn't failed hard enough; gas prices hadn't multiplied enough and continuing along the same path as Bush was exactly what the doctor ordered, McCain tried to tell us, and as I've said before and will probably say again, that is why he lost, because the millions of Americans out of work or who have lost their homes due to the economy or loved ones in the war or 9/11 disagreed and believed that the path we were going down was the wrong one and we needed a change in direction. I am not, I would say, a "fan" of Obama, and I don't think he's a "Messiah" or anything the Republicans are accusing the Democrats of feeling, but I do think he's got the right personality. A President should be charismatic. Clinton was - every time he came on, it was like "The President has something to say, let's pay attention". Bush was not - the only value in listening to him was for laughs. McCain had more solidity and presence than Bush, not nearly as much charisma as Clinton or Obama, though. Obama has all of the presence of Clinton (this is Bill I'm talking about, not Hillary) and more charisma, though it's different. He seems more down to earth, more of a straight shooter, where Clinton was a little less serious, I thought, and seemingly happier. I don't know, he seemed more easy-going. A President should also be taken seriously. Clinton seemed easy-going, but he was serious enough. Bush couldn't be taken seriously, and in agreeing with Bush's mistakes, McCain couldn't be taken very seriously, either, but I believe Obama will prove to be as serious as one should expect.

Another "I don't mean to say" but, conservatives are not all that bad, as they do have their place. First and foremost, until somebody figures out how to represent the rich as well as the working class, the rich do need an advocate. Bush filled that role for eight years so well, he mostly forgot about the working class. McCain probably never knew such a thing existed - his ads as much as said you weren't a citizen of "his" America if you made less than $250,000 a year, at least within the context of Obama's ads. Oops! Yeah... I have an uncle who does alright for himself and his family, and they're the most "well-off" folks I know, him and my aunt, and I don't believe they make $250,000 a year together, let alone individually. How many Americans actually make that much? How many Americans KNOW somebody who makes that much, personally, and working for them doesn't count? But still, these rare folks do need some representation, as their money does help our country advance. We leave them out in the cold, don't throw them a bone once in a while, and their misfortune affects the working class that way; as they say, shit rolls downhill. Second of all, and just as important in some regards, our government is based on a system of checks and balances. If the liberals and Democrats ran the show all of the time, we wouldn't have a diversity of opinion in government, and that's bad either way. The liberals really needed to take over in 2004 as Bush had driven us far enough into the ground in four years as would take an ordinary Republican eight years, and if we'd have swung the economy and government the other way in '04, we most likely wouldn't be in a bad recession, or as bad of one, now in 2009.

But, we are where we are, and Bush has laid out some serious challenges for his successor. We often talk of economic prosperity under Clinton, but Bill Clinton didn't have to rebuild (much). The economy wasn't exactly bad under either Ronald Reagan or George H. W. Bush. FDR was always my favorite President for fixing the economy after the Great Depression. It took him over ten years to accomplish that. (Never mind that before he went nuts, Hitler fixed Germany's economy, which was worse than America's at that point, in a hell of a lot less time.) So Barack Obama has a lot of work ahead of him. We're not as bad as we were in 1929, but I do believe Bush had us on that path, and I do believe if McCain would have won, we would have been there by 2012, and maybe that's what the wealthy want, I don't know, but I do call Obama's victory a victory for the economy; maybe the "war" isn't won yet, but we've just won a heck of a battle to turn things around.

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