Barack Obama will soon be inaugurated and I’m giddy at the prospect. I know that he’s not going to solve all the world’s problems with a magical pump of his fist but for the first time since I can remember I actually respect the man who is about to take office.
I was born in 1970 and while I can’t remember anything about Richard Nixon I firmly believe that he played a major role in shaping my cynicism toward elected officials. The guy was a crook, a liar and an egomaniac. Looking back I realize that Jimmy Carter was a nice guy who made the grave mistake of being honest with the American people but the fact remains that he was not an effective president. It didn’t help his cause that Teddy Kennedy treated him with nothing but contempt. If you can’t command the respect of your own party you have no hope.
Notice how I forgot to mention Gerald Ford? Exactly.
I do remember Ronald Reagan. Growing up in Northeastern Ohio I witnessed the effects of Reagan’s economic policies. To this day the Midwest is a shell of what it once was before Reagan declared war on unions and used blue collar workers as fodder for the cannons. A lot of people hold Reagan in high esteem. I don’t know why. Rumor has it that his face will soon make its way to the dime. Fitting considering that’s about how much he valued the American worker.
The first Bush was similar to Carter in the sense that he projected weakness. Unlike Carter he was a sniveling liar who got saddled with the fallout of his predecessor’s illegal and unethical activities. Bush presided over a grim recession and demonstrated a complete inability to understand how it affected the average American. Not surprising considering he comes from a family that doesn’t ever have to worry about its finances.
Clinton was a pig. He enjoyed living the life of a celebrity and indulged in all the perks that come with it. 30 years earlier nobody would have cared about his penchant for cheap women but in the 1990s people forgot that there’s a difference between personal life and public life. Besides Bill didn’t exactly go out of his way to be discreet. Even so, Clinton managed to ramp up the economy and got a lot accomplished in spite of the fact that a Republican Congress suspended doing its job in order to undermine Clinton at every turn.
The second Bush is proof that a combination of inbreeding and money yields disturbing results. I’ve read about all of our presidents and watched documentaries on most of them. George W. Bush will be viewed as the worst and that’s just based on what we know right now. Over the next 20 years a lot of secrets are going to come out and the level of corruption that occurred over the past 8 years will be mind boggling.
Worse than that are the clods who ran against Bush. Al Gore and John Kerry are very similar in the sense that they lacked any semblance of a personality. Gore is clearly the smarter of the two and probably would have been an excellent president but he was not able to project his positive qualities publicly. Kerry simply lacked the guts to stand behind his convictions. They were cut from the same cloth as Mondale and Dukakis, two other notable failures the Democrats foisted upon us and if it had been up to the brilliant minds that favored those four, Bill Clinton wouldn’t have been his party’s nominee.
Republicans haven’t fared much better in the campaign process. Reagan was highly charismatic. Even though he lacked substance, he projected a paternal quality that made people feel like they could trust him. After Reagan the pool gets really shallow. You have to go all the way back to Ike before you find a guy who is the least bit appealing. In addition to charm, Ike had a functioning brain which is not always a prerequisite for the job. Aside from Clinton, the Democrats have to go back to JFK to find somebody worthy of respect.
The point I’m making is that in my lifetime there hasn’t been a President or a Presidential Candidate I really believed in. Granted, I think Clinton did a great job and believe he was a good president but the guy was a creep and at the time I wasn’t so sure about him. I had to step back and put his administration into context. I realize that there are some conservatives who like to say that Clinton is to blame for the current state of our economy and the instability we see around the world, but I’m far too smart to buy it. I know how the system works. I've been paying attention.
You could say that I’m jaded. I’ve seen the best and the brightest both parties have to offer and I’m unimpressed. That’s been a fairly accurate assessment of how I've felt year after year.
Barack Obama is a very smart man. That alone makes him immensely more qualified than two thirds of anybody who has run for political office in the past 40 years. I stopped and thought about the fact that I might be judging Obama by the standard that has been set by our current President but that’ not it. Bush might very well be the dumbest man to sit in the Oval Office, but that doesn’t diminish what Obama is bringing to the table.
More than being smart, Obama is appealing. He is every bit as charismatic as Ronald Reagan which is impressive seeing as how Obama is so young. The fact that a black man with that name was able to get elected is a testament to his personality but then this guy, who was born after 1960, exudes a sense of strength and wisdom that puts everybody at ease. Most importantly, Obama seems to have enough humility to admit what he doesn’t know and surround himself with people who do. Most Americans realize that the President can't do it all, so it's nice to see a guy who is comfortable in addressing his weaknesses.
This country is facing its darkest era since the great depression and the fact that the deep recession we’re in has global influences makes the challenges ahead that much harder. How can we reinvigorate the American economy if the rest of the world is struggling? Obama and his people have been analyzing that very question and they seem to have a couple of promising ideas. Additionally, Obama has to salvage diplomatic relationships that have all but ended. We can't extricate ourselves from turmoil if our allies aren't willing to lend a hand.
It’s a tough job, but the guy has already made progress. I’ve never seen a President-elect step up and demonstrate the level of leadership Obama has shown us...and we haven’t even heard his inaugural address. I’m actually excited to see what happens after he is sworn in. I know that he’s going to make mistakes but at least he seems like the kind of guy who will make an effort to correct them. We’ve spent the last 8 years letting a spoiled rich boy ignore his messes so having a President who is willing to accept responsibility for his decisions will be refreshing.