The De Facto President
Last week on the eve of Thanksgiving, Barack Obama was consumed from dawn to twilight interviewing the new members of his administration, meeting with advisers, speaking on the telephone with governors of both parties from all over the country, conferring with world leaders and diplomats, fine-tuning what will be his team's economic policy, consulting with and being debriefed by key members of the National Security Agency and the CIA, holding press conferences - among Heaven knows what else. And what was George Bush's big event of the day, you may well ask? Pardoning a turkey.
The presidential tradition of the annual turkey pardon began in 1945. President Truman took such a shining to the bird that was presented to him that year, he just couldn't bring himself to eat the poor thing. So began the tradition. Think of that: Sixty-four birds in sixty-four years spared the axe thanks to the compassion of Harry Truman!
The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon has always been a lighthearted media event. It gives a president the opportunity to redirect, if only for a moment, the attention of the country from what otherwise might have been a depressing news week. The annual Bush parson, on the other hand, has consistently had an ominous undertone. It always reminds many of us that this is the man who, when he was in the Governor's Mansion in Austin, Texas, became the only Governor in memory (maybe in history - I'm still researching the data) who refused to commute the sentence of a single Death Row inmate. He even signed off on the executions of people who were severely retarded, those of questionable guilt, or people who had received unfair trials. One public defender actually fell asleep during the trial of a man who later was given a lethal injection. The 2000 presidential elections were in sight and he just had to prove to the nitwits who tend to vote in Republican primaries all over the country that he was "tough on crime", ya' know what I mean?
When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, one-hundred and fifty men and women were executed in the Lone Star Death House - a record unsurpassed in American history. Compassionate Conservatism indeed.
But that's all water under the bridge, isn't it? We might as well face the fact that President Obama is now in charge of our beloved nation - in fact if not in law. All that's left for Bush is the occasional photo op and mindless waves to a few carefully selected crowds of sycophantic, Right Wing robots. The guy has become the Queen Elizabeth of American politics. He doesn't look like a president. He doesn't talk like a president. He doesn't act like a president. He's an embarrassment. For the rest of our history, even if America survives well into the next millennium, the image of George W. Bush's twisted, grotesque smirk will be an eternal reminder of this generation's jaw-dropping naivete involving politics and affairs of state. The fact that this half-witted little guttersnipe was elected twice to the most powerful office in the world defies credulity. And considering the gravitas of the two men he was able to defeat, his tenure as president is all-the-more embarrassing. It is akin to Jascha Heifetz and Itzhak Perlman losing to Jack Benny on the American Idol violin competition.
For the first time in almost a decade, we will have a chief-executive with the I.Q. higher than that of your average, deflated rubber life raft. Should a hostile nation (let's say Iran just for the sake of argument) attack the United States between now and 2017 (That's right, I'm predicting two terms) it is hard, if not impossible to predict how President Barack Obama will react. But I promise you this: He won't respond by invading Canada. Trust me on that one, kiddies.
I don't think I'm giving away any state secret when I mention the fact that the economy is in shambles. Yesterday, the government announced what anyone paying attention has known for months: We're in a serious recession. It's difficult to say how an Obama administration is going to solve the problem. Odds are that they won't be able to totally alleviate the situation during their term of office. But of this you may be absolutely certain: They won't be giving a further tax break to a class of people whom already have more money than they know what to do with.
No one is perfect. Occasionally people are not competent to rise to the challenge that is placed before them. I imagine Barack Obama's administration will not be an exception to this rule. How the new president will respond to the failures of any of his subordinates cannot be predicted. But it is a cinch to say that he won't send them on their way with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Call it a hunch on my part.
It's a safe bet that Barack Obama will not be paying favored columnists two-quarters-of-a-million dollars in taxpayer money to promote his agenda - as Bush did. He will not be torturing POWs in clear violation of American and international law - as Bush did. He won't be violating treaties the United States has made with other nations - as Bush did. He won't be listening in on private phone conversations without the legally mandated warrant - as Bush did. He will not invade sovereign nations under false pretences and commit genocide in the process - as Bush did. Also, Barack Obama will not be remembered as the first former president to go to federal prison - as Bush will - I PROMISE YOU THAT.
And not to exclude poor old Joe Biden from the conversation, it's also a pretty safe bet that our new vice-president won't be shooting anybody in the face any time soon.
A year ago, on the very last posting of the year on this site, I predicted that 2008 would be remembered as the year our entire economy collapsed. Although all of the warning signs were in the air, it was a tough call nonetheless. Here's my prediction for 2009 (and this isn't a tough call, this is a no-brainer): Next year, the economic difficulty we are experiencing now will be transformed into an economic nightmare. In fact, things are going to get much worse next year - COUNT ON IT.
As stated in the previous post, the new administration would do well to study the successes and mistakes made by the new Roosevelt administration seventy-six years ago. Like those New Dealers of long ago, the "Change We Can Believe In" crowd are inheriting an economic catastrophe. The challenge facing them in the next eight years cannot be understated.
Can you even imagine how bleak the situation would be at this moment had John McCain won the election? Phil Gramm would now be the Secretary of the Treasury Designate! I've got two brothers who live abroad. Had McCain and Gidget von Braun won, I wouldn't now be living in the United States, I've got news for you! If America had continued down that road, this country would have been finished. The best thing that can be said of 2008 is that it was the year WE the PEOPLE were slapped awake from the Right Wing coma we've been slumbering under since the day we sent a dirty old dingbat named Ronald Reagan to the White House almost three decades ago. For many of us, in many ways too numerous to mention, 2008 was a transformational year. We are feeling more hopeful than we have felt in a very long time.
So good luck to you, President Obama! You've got one hell of a road ahead of you, that's for sure. The ship of state you are now navigating will rarely cross calm seas; your compass will on occasion cease to function properly. But you've got a competent, reliable team behind you. It's refreshing, to be sure, to see an administration that is not packed to the rafters with fools and political hacks. All thinking people will sleep a little sounder in the years to come knowing that the man sitting in the Oval Office is able and intelligent.
It all seems too good to be true. Come to think about it, it probably is too good to be true.
In homage to Beth Quinn, who always closed her column in the Middletown, NY, Times Herald Record reminding us how many days were left until Bush was out of office - until that paper was purchased by Rupert Murdoch and she was summarily fired:
There are forty-nine days until this disgusting administration is thrown onto history's shit pile.