Monday, May 11, 2009

Yes We Can Stumble.

The Obama Presidency began its historic 100-day run with two concerts, one parade, and 10 official inauguration balls. But despite the wild applause and flurry of autograph seekers following the President's first speech to Congress, all hasn't gone off without a hitch. Former cabinet nominees Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer, who came under fire for tax errors at best, evasion at worst, have given the Right plenty to be cynical about.

First, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner apologized for his misstep and we generously chucked it up to an honest mistake. After all, anybody could muck up a 1040A schedule, right? Even a financial genius? Although he was ultimately confirmed, it was the first feasting day for a GOP hoping to prove misery loves company.

But when Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer lined up for a free pass as well, a nation in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression was not buying.

Not one, not two, but three nominations for the Obama "Hope Conquers All" administration were not playing fair with the IRS and Obama responded with his first mea culpa of his presidency.

The Left heaved a great sigh of relief because after eight long years, at least there was an admission of error. But why stop there?

Perhaps it'll become a national trend now that superstar Michael Phelps issued an apology to his sponsors and adoring, marriage-proposing fans worldwide claiming he made a mistake of judgement—following the release of his photo with a big party bong.

America's superhuman sweetheart falling head first from an Olympic pool-sized-pedestal, created by the media to crown a mere mortal, was to say the least a bit of a letdown. With revised estimates showing 741,000 layoffs in January alone followed by a current record of 6.3 million unemployed and rising, can't we have a ride-into-the-sunset moment for even a little while?

But on to ponder the deeper implications. Are we a country that can learn from our mistakes? Or has our puritanical humility been lost in an age of unabashed reality TV where its stars are ordinary people willing to do outrageous things in exchange for a one-way admission to the Famous 15?

Can we really change our gluttonous ways of overspending and consumption before our democratic experiment is hauled off to liquidation?

And what does it say about us as a country that our leaders nearest the top are having trouble ponying up their fair share?

Unfortunately for us, there's no sharing of love at the Capitol either, when it comes to passing the economic stimulus in the House. Not one Republican voted for it. Not one.

Now maybe I watched too many natural disaster movies back in the 70s, but I always thought that it is precisely those times of trouble when everybody sets aside their differences and works together?

I don't know whether to be angrier at the Right for passing a bill for big business and not for the lowly worker or the Left for not extending the olive branch in times of utter freakin' financial disaster. As in red alert...things have gotten a bit serious now, DON'T YOU THINK?

In 1904, Mark Twain wrote, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect)."

It may be that the worst part about the first blunders in a Newbama Age is that the majority has missed an opportunity for badly needed reform. And I'm not talking about energy either. Our government leaders have failed, at least this time, to prove Obama right and the world wrong that Washington really can be different.

Apparently Olympic superstars aren't the only celebs free-falling from the scaffolding.

As far as pausing and reflecting, the presidency does not strike me as a job that's afforded the luxury of philosophy. That is a freedom bestowed upon politicians on the campaign trail, presidential libraries, and the writers of history textbooks. Perhaps that should change if we are to really take a different tack at our nation's difficulties.

Still, hope is not all lost. Congress did get three Republicans to sign on to the final version of the stimulus bill. And despite the tea-party protests that have ensued, it's a start on the pink cloudy road to destiny.

President Obama has sagely issued an honest and sensible entreaty to Americans of all colors, red and blue, black and white, poor and rich to "...pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of remaking America."

It hasn't been very long since Bush's departure into the wild sunset, and it looks like it'll take awhile for the dust to settle.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How George W. Bush Made Me a Liberal.

The real legacy of Bush's presidency will not be the horrific events of 9-11 that united a nation or his preemptive doctrine and the reinvasion of Iraq that followed. Nor will it be his call to compassionate conservatism and the mobilization of the Christian Right for political gain.

If MoveOn's 4.2 million members are any indication, his most lasting contribution to the country he loves will be a progressive wave of activists who were compelled, and led by duty and conscience to embrace the political process.

And it's not just the record youth vote that took one giant step forward for democracy. Even John McCain had a mantra of change on his lips during the final throes of his bid for the presidency. Despite voting with his own party-in-chief 95% of the time.

"It's the economy, stupid."

I guess some sons don't learn the lessons of their fathers. The same recession that helped unseat George H.W. Bush in 1991, came back to bite the proverbial prince, except this time the fall was much much worse. Not even the shame of torture in America could dethrone the lies of an administration bent on expanding the power of the executive branch, toppling sovereign nations under the revisionist premise of spreading democracy, or sponsoring a secret government wiretap program which meant quite a bit more government (ahem, not less in your private lives.) And if that weren't enough change for the conservative in you, how about a return to deficit spending to the tune of $482 billion?

Need I remind us all that this is the same president who proposed gambling social security by privatizing it on Wall Street, which has now completely collapsed in the worst depression since the Great Crash of '29. If this is conservatism, it has certainly moved a smidgen from the right.

W, as we all know he is affectionately called, changed a lot more than we were promised in the campaign speeches. I will give Bush one credit though. He did not follow through on his promise to eliminate bureaucracy and make government smaller and more efficient. No big changes there! How about adding a whole new Department of Homeland Security just for starters?

Okay, okay, even the harshest critic has got to give the guy a break on that one because, well, the CIA and the FBI weren't talking to each other, right? Sort of like one of those family rifts where they were a bit estranged? And while that drama was playing out, someone missed that little office memo about "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."

So, that one's a freebie. But I do feel a bit sorry for the guy as he bids his adieu. I like a happy ending as much as the next politico. I'd love to believe that he really did prevent another terrorist attack in the U.S during the following seven years in office. Except that the same piece of intelligence that warned us prior to 9-11 and was ignored also stated that Bin Laden "prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks." Indeed, the Bush legacy will be fully written by the wisdom of time. I hope and pray W is right on this count. Oh God I do.

So what is the granddaughter of a sweet NRA-loving, Fox-watching family in Ohio to do? Throw away her flag pin and refuse to say the pledge of allegiance?

More like join the Internet revolution! You too can change your country with the click of a mouse. For only $19.95 a month (or whatever your Internet provider charges.)

A small pittance when you think of our first Commander in Chief of the Continental Army crossing the Delaware in freezing temperatures. I can snuggle in my blanket and click click click my way to Washington. Yes we can!

Who knew being a liberal was so easy? I don't even have to chain myself to my neighbor's fence with the McCain-Palin sign on it. I can write President Bush an email directly! And plead with him to keep his promise for peace, not war. Military might, not missionary muscle. And when that fails, I can send petitions to my senators and congressmen and women. I can ask my friends to sign too. And well, the next thing I know I'm emailing everyone in my address book — near strangers and family alike —to vote their conscience, to not waste their precious power to set things right. To vote for John Kerry!

Except he lost. And Bush was reelected to spend some capital, political and otherwise.

A thousand points of light is really more what happens when millions of unhappy people sit in front of their computer screens and do something different. Change things. Little ones at first. But soon those little changes become bigger victories.

Had I known then that W.'s failings would lead us to the first African-American president, the lives of innocent civilians and brave soldiers a small price for the advancement of mankind, Bush, a mere catalyst for the change to come. A reawakening of our republic to see we shall overcome!

Obama may have become the change we can believe in. But the change had already happened inside me.