Wednesday, January 21, 2009
As much as I did not agree with many of the policies of Mr. Bush, I feel that I have to say that I did not feel great antipathy for the guy. He is, as so many of his supporters pointed out, a "good man," described often down-to-earth, or folksy. For lots of people, Mr. Bush passed the litmus test of "Would he be fun to have a beer with?"
The problem was that for such an office as the President of the US, we need to elect someone who was not "one of us," not a drinking buddy who knows about as much geography and world affairs as the average guy. Bush has the average mentality; I believe he's as self-serving as most people we run across each day, his smugness is common among the middle class. Had you been contemporaries, he would have been the class clown or the jock in your high school. I'm certain you can easily name at least 15 people you've met in your lifetime who have exactly the same personal qualities as Mr. Bush. But what we need, for every President, for every election to higher office, is a Great Man.
Mr. Bush supported poor policies and failed so badly a lot of the time because he was too average. He was too easily swayed by the people around him, the agendas he followed weren't motivated entirely by the greatest good, but were self-serving. This is not to say he was evil or mean. Unlike many people, I do think he has a good heart, and he really did want to do the right thing. But he literally just couldn't see the whole picture. Bush isn't, and never pretended to be, a thinking man. He was an average guy, and he wasn't up to the job. I wouldn't be, either. Can you honestly say you personally know anyone who would come close to having all the qualities needed to be a good President?
The point of this is not to be harsh to Mr. Bush. Holding down arguably the most difficult job in the world, he was faced with a perfect storm of difficulties. I do think he struggled mightily at times to do his best. It just wasn't enough. He was in over his head.
I started to sing a gentler tune about Bush just before the election of 2004. Ada heard me say that I would definitely not be voting for Bush. She said, "You sound angry. Is he a bad guy?" I realized then that I was angry. But I was angry at his some of his policies, and his seeming nonchalance. He was the same as countless guys I've met over the years--smirky and knee-jerk, but underneath probably well-meaning. I didn't hate him, any more than I hated any of those other smirky guys.
Once I admitted that my problem with Bush was more about what he lacked than who he was, it was clear to me that he wasn't really a "bad guy." Certainly, I didn't want Ada to grow up making snap judgements like that. So I decided then and there that I had to let go of my anger at him. I told her what became my line for every time I was dismayed about the decisions of his administration: "President Bush is not a bad guy, honey. He had his turn at being President, and he did his best. But now it should be time for him to be at home in Texas with his family. He's a good daddy, and a good husband, and now he's going to let someone else take a turn at being President." Yesterday, that's exactly what happened. I wish him well.
President Obama is having his turn now. Unlike Bush, he does have all of those elusive qualities that make a "Great Man," and I believe he will wear the mantle of the Presidency well. I confess to having some misgivings about putting so much pressure on him--he is human, and we may discover that like us, he, too, has feet of clay. The problems our country faces are huge, and (as he has pointed out) there are no quick fixes. Will expectations of Obama exceed his capabilities? Perhaps. Regardless, I am hopeful that Obama's mettle will carry the day. His character shows in his bearing, in his rhetoric, and I think he will also do his best. And that will be more than good enough.
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