A SAD TRUTH ABOUT THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
One of this nation's most historic elections is now over. While analysts sort through the statistics and demographic data, a multiplicity of insights will invariably emerge. Yet, even at this premature stage of assessment, there is one truth that seems impossible to deny. This election was, in large measure, a national referendum on George W. Bush's eight years in office. Indeed, Mr. Obama framed the central issue of the election as precisely that. Its object was never that voters express confidence in Obama as a chief executive or commander-in-chief. He has neither executive nor military experience – not an ounce! To construe the election as a vote of confidence in his favor would be to misinterpret the event. And let us give Mr. McCain a break: the vote hardly conveyed the message that voters do not trust him. Poll after poll showed otherwise. That he is widely regarded as a patriot with experience sufficient to lead the nation at home and abroad is beyond doubt. No, the vote was instead, when distilled to its essence, a resounding condemnation of an already widely discredited leader. It was as if the electorate were screaming in unison, "Good riddance to George W. Bush!" I doubt that there is a single Republican who could have prevailed against the raw, brute strength of this emotion.
President Bush, I think it fair to say, never really inspired the American people. He impressed countless citizens as verbally insipid, and appeared to many others to lack the intellectual candlepower necessary to lead. Consider a recent case in point. As pictured above, he telephoned the new president-elect in order to extend personal congratulations to him, stating in part the following: "What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters. You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations and go enjoy yourself.''
Now, let me say that I can readily understand a president telephoning his successor with a word of warm congratulations. This is socially and politically appropriate and expected by the American people. But President Bush encouraged Mr. Obama to "go enjoy" himself. Can you fathom that? I frankly cannot. This is the kind of advice that one gives a thirteen-year old boy who is about to go on his first hayride or to his first dance. My purpose is not to be the President's captious critic because, heaven knows, he has been on the receiving end of more than enough mean-spirited punditry. Yet, in all candor, his remark seems terribly shallow, shockingly misplaced, and tends to ignore the gravitas inherent in the situation that will confront Mr. Obama upon assuming office.
At the risk of belaboring my point, let me emphasize that the new President will face a severely divided nation, more divided than possibly at any time since the Civil War. For those who applaud Mr. Obama's social and political ideology, there will be almost as many who do not. As he acts upon the principles he holds dear, there will be an outpouring of rancor from millions of citizens. Do not think that his name will not be taken in vain, with many vicious expletives thrown in as "rhetorical flourishes," when he attempts to usher in Great Society II, to nominate ACLU types to federal judgeships, to reinstitute the "fairness doctrine" in order to put the kabosh on conservative talk shows, and to rescind the right of secret balloting in a labor union election. He is a figure who will never evoke marginal feelings of any kind. The point is that America is fragmented, and Mr. Obama's presence, like it or not, will probably serve to intensify this reality. So advising him to enjoy himself defies comprehension.
The world situation confronting the new president may tend to take his breath away, but it will not be because of ineffable waves of "enjoyment." The bear of Russia is showing its claws again. China has risen to world prominence both economically and militarily. Iran is on an intractable course of nuclear armament. Europe is pusillanimous in the face of the Islamo-fascist threat. Canada is losing its traditional cultural identity to the cancerous proliferation of a secular and multicultural mind-set. Latin America is a stronghold for Marxist and totalitarian dictatorships. And the United States? Well, we are in the throes of a financial crisis the bottom of which we have not yet seen, are a nation of squabbling tribes, a bunch of hyphenated Americans, who have no place to turn for information except to a corrupt media establishment, and one could go on and on. Yes, by all means, Mr. Obama, "go enjoy yourself."
Can you imagine President James Buchanan conveying such a vacuous sentiment to President-elect Abraham Lincoln in 1861? Even for the likes of a Buchanan this seems too much to envision.
Let us hope and pray that, in the midst of Mr. Obama's "enjoyment," he proves to be an architect for peace in this frighteningly troubled world, that he promotes unity throughout the nation, that all immigration to this country is severely curtailed, and that there are many miraculous returns. We will need all the miracles we can get, believe me.
November 6, 2008