A certain Commander-in-Chief turns the big 6-0 today. And I’m trying to find a way to say something non-inflammatory. The problem is that I’m increasingly convinced that in a country as polarized as ours, it’s hard to say anything anymore that won’t tick off someone. And according to last week’s 20/20 on ABC News, this President’s merely the latest proponent of divisive politics over the last quarter century or so.
Here’s something I’ve given up: references to his “alleged” Presidency. Do I think crooked things happened in Florida in 2000? Most assuredly. How about in Ohio in 2004? Probably. (And I’m surprised it suddenly became an issue in 2006, given the information available much earlier. But history won’t remember President Sam Tilden from 1876, even though he got ripped as badly by the Hayes supporters as Al Gore was six years ago.
Here’s the thing, though: aside from his policies, most of which I disagree vigorously, I have a hard time with the speech patterns (and the SMIRK!) of the current American President. This linguistic style is such a distraction that I can barely stand watching and listening to him talk. I avoided the State of the Union and the Inaugural Address in 2005, the first time I had deliberately done so since I started watching these things more than 30 years ago. I never had the same reaction to Presidents Nixon or Reagan, even though they both promulgated policies that I abhorred.
Indeed, I had (minor) hopes for the Prez, figuring that he couldn’t be THAT bad. I knew a lot about his (draft-)dodgy past, and the finagling involved with buying the Texas Rangers with pretend money but getting real bucks in return. Still, I’m a Christian, so I believe in the possibility of change.
In fact, at the point of his first crisis, I totally forgot that he WAS the President. REALLY. There was an issue involving a Chinese aircraft, and I thought, “I wonder what Clinton is going to do about THAT?” Forget the fact that I actually saw W.’s inauguration. Then I said, “Wait. Clinton’s not President. Who’s President?” The drama of the Florida recount and the Supreme Court ruling about the same, and I actually couldn’t remember who was in charge. Something about it made it so unreal that I never internalized his ascendancy into the Presidency.
His next significant act was to limit federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in August 2001. He’s spending his political capital on that? It was a bit confusing, as it seemed to come out of nowhere.
Of course, 9/11 came. I was not one of those who complained that he was moving around a lot on that day, rather than rushing directly back to Washington. He had that one moment of “looking Presidential” in NYC, then we waged war in Afghanistan. His response to try to capture Bin Laden seemed obvious, although his rhetoric sounded like the schoolyard. Yet what really surprised me was how quickly he abandoned focusing on the killer of 3000 in favor of..Iraq?
Then the Patriot Act, which MUST have been sitting in someone’s drawer, given the speed in which it was passed. The litany of erosions of freedom subsequent to that will be noted by others, I’m sure.
Nevertheless, as 43 turns 60 today, I wish him wisdom and courage to lead the country over the next 2.5 years with the compassion he promised us at the outset of his administration, but has largely failed to deliver.