Dear President Obama,
First of all, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read "The Rant". It is a humbling thing indeed to know that the most powerful persons in the nation are reading my opinions and being influenced daily by what I have to say on the subject of politics and affairs of state. [Hey, I can dream, can't I? So sue me!]
To quote one of your dead-as-a-door-nail predecessors, "Let me make one thing perfectly clear", I'm really happy that you won the election three months ago today. Really, really happy. Gosh! I don't know what the heck I would have done had John McCain and Gidget von Braun seized the realms of power on January 20. To be totally honest with you, I probably would have packed my bags and moved to England or Ireland or France - anywhere but the United States of America. Had our beloved nation stupidly chose to go down that road again, it would have been the final nail in the coffin of our economic suicide. Quite frankly, I don't think I would have wanted to be around to witness that happening. Contrary to the opinion of some less enlightened people, I love my country. I really do! I am convinced that your election was the best thing for America, and I'm happy that for the next eight years (I'm predicting two terms) you and your lovely family will be calling the White House "home".
Alright, having gotten the schmoozing portion of my message out of the way, let me get down to the business at hand:
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON THERE, PARDNER??? IS THIS MOVIE GOING TO BE CALLED, "BUBBAH: THE SEQUEL"?
Mr. President, you have the "good fortune" (if that's the correct phrase) to be following into office the most mind-numbingly corrupt and incompetent president in American history. It is my belief that, had we been able raise the Nixon Gang from the dead and install them in the Oval Office two weeks ago, they would have been so much better than the Bush Mob, most of the country would still have breathed a prolonged sigh of relief. Here's the problem: When your term of office is over eight years from now, you don't want historians saying that yours was not half as bad as the previous administration; you want them to say that it was a night and day improvement!
The minute it was revealed that two of your designated appointees (Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer) had tax issues, that should have been the end of it. Although they are both decent and capable people, the fact that they accepted their nominations knowing that these problems were boiling under the surface shows a recklessness that is troubling. While it is true that compared to the corruption of Bush and company, their transgressions are of relatively little import (anyone can make a mistake when filing their income tax returns) after the trauma of the last eight years, you need to set the highest moral and ethical standards possible. You promised us "change", President Obama; that doesn't mean a mere repeat of the Clinton years. Do you remember what his first months in office were like? You can do better - a lot better.
Forgive me for throwing this back in your face, Mr. President, but I need change I can believe in.
"Did I screw up in the situation? Absolutely; and I'm willing to take my lumps....I'm frustrated with myself, with our team....I'm here on television saying I screwed up."
Barack Obama, 3 February 2009, NBC Nightly News
HELLO??? All due respect, Mr. President, in April of 1961 when Jack Kennedy faced the press for the first time after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he told them, "Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan." Can you even imagine the uproar that would have occurred had he said, "I screwed up"? It is a sad commentary on the dumbing down of America's political dialogue in the ensuing forty-eight years that your comments to Brian Wilson last night have gone relatively unnoticed. Do yourself a favor; the next time you are forced to make a similar admission, say that you "erred" or that you made an "error of judgment" - even "I made a mistake" would be acceptable - But don't say that you "screwed up", alright? Just a suggestion.
Regarding the so-called Economic Stimulus Package: There is too much package and not enough stimulus. Here's the chance for you to stand up and show a profile in courage. There's enough pork in there to give the entire country a massive coronary. Demand that it be removed immediately. This country has bridges and schools and levees and highways that are in dire need of rebuilding. Recently I read of a school somewhere in the south that has not been improved since it was built in 1893. You don't have the power of the line item veto, but no one can argue your power of persuasion. Have your team rewrite that package and publicly shame the House and Senate into passing it. Don't forget that yours is, as Theodore Roosevelt once called it, "the bully pulpit".
After nearly three decades of Right Wing insanity, our country is broken and disparately needs to be repaired. Throughout history, the economy has always done well only when investment was being made in America's infrastructure. Otherwise the stimulus package is doomed to fail and we'll all be a thousand miles further down the proverbial creek.
Some commentators are calling this (with straight faces, no less) the worst start to any administration in history. That is so far from the truth it's hardly worth commenting on. The previous president (remember him?) committed one blunder after another from the moment he entered the White House and never stopped committing them for eight long years! And let's not forget Bill Clinton. Six months went by before he started to get somewhat of a hold on things. "Don't ask, don't tell". Remember that?
Or how about our ninth president, William Henry Harrison? Talk about a disastrous start! On the day he was inaugurated, March 4, 1841, Washington was enveloped in a freezing rain. The nitwit wanted to prove to everyone what a macho, rugged kind of guy he was and declined to wear his coat while riding in an open coach during the parade from the Capital to the White House. This was after delivering the longest inaugural address in American history - before or since! Exactly one month later, on April 4, he was dead, a victim of pneumonia. Silly bastard.
And while we're on the subject of disastrous presidential beginnings, when Lincoln entered the White House in 1861, the country was at war with itself! Sorry but it just doesn't get any weirder than that.
So, no, President Obama, in terms of bad starts, your administration doesn't even register. And it's still not too late to get things under control. This is not a time for caution and timidity; this is a time for decisive, courageous action. In the weeks leading up to that historic moment when you recited the oath of office, you were telling everyone who would listen how inspired you were by Doris Kearns Goodwin's monumental biography of Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. Hey, don't get me wrong, it was a great read! But the book of hers that you should have been reading was No Ordinary Time, her biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
When Roosevelt came to power in 1933, he understood precisely the depth and gravity of the economic catastrophe his country was in the midst of. President Obama, do you have any idea why FDR is today remembered as one of the greatest chiefs-executive in American history? Because he knew that the only thing he had to fear was - fear itself (Oh, and fire - the poor old bugger was terrified of fire). The moment he walked into the Oval Office (Or rather, "The moment he was wheeled into the Oval Office...." Sorry 'bout that), he threw all political caution and expediency to the wind and took bold, courageous action that we as Americans still benefit from seven-and-a-half decades later.
Republicans politicians want you to fail, Mr. President. They know American history almost as much as you and I do. They know that FDR was so successful at cleaning up the mess made by the GOP in the twelve years leading up to 1932, they would not control the executive branch of our government for a full twenty years. Other than a brief, two year interlude, they would not control both houses of congress for sixty-two years. Don't give them the satisfaction of your failure.
And finally, Mr. President, regarding your choice of Republican Judd Gregg as your commerce secretary. Do you really think it's a particularly nifty idea to put someone in charge of a department he once voted to obliterate? You have enough token Republicans in your new administration; no more, okay? No more. You've made your point.
Hope all's well on your end, President Obama. Give Michelle and the girls a big hug for me. Oh, and that reminds me! One more thing (and this is really important): Have you found a damned dog for those two kids yet?
The Defining Moment: FDR's First Hundred Days
and The Triumph of Hope
and The Triumph of Hope
by Jonathon Alter