Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Precedent of the The President.

President Obama has just concluded his address to Congress about the state of our economy and the general direction toward which he plans to lead this nation. In spite of a few stumbles, and in spite of the incessant applause which has always struck me as excessive and phony---like a high school pep rally---his speech tonight was, to me, as momentous as one this country has seen in a very, very long time.

Actions will ultimately speak louder than words, of course, but there's little doubt that this President is one with real vision. With a keen self-awareness that wasn't often evident in the way President Bush comported himself, Obama seemed to know all too well why his stimulus plan has not been welcomed by everyone. Put simply, he gets it. His policies and plans are not going to resonate with everyone, in some cases even with myself, but you have to take great comfort in knowing that he clearly does not live and work in a bubble. If he's surrounding himself with a bunch of "yes" men, I'm not seeing it. What I am seeing is someone who seems willing to grasp for a future beyond the next election cycle. In politics, the "future" is only measured in 2 or 4 year increments. His words, if not his hoped-for deeds, seek to radically redefine that standard. Amen.

Some of his ideas are exceedingly ambitious and, of course, are destined to meet with varied success. Time will tell. But what I saw tonight---no, what I felt tonight---was a renewed sense of, yes, I'm going to say it...HOPE. Quite frankly, you can't shortcut your way to a better tomorrow. Hard problems require complex and difficult solutions, and for too long we've been held captive by an overly partisan Congress that sought victory more than it sought progress.

While I often gave President Bush the benefit of the doubt, perhaps even long after he deserved it, this is the kind of speech Bush could NEVER give. It's not that Bush was lacking in vision. The Bush Doctrine is one which I have never, in principle, disagreed with. Like some of Obama's ideas and pledges, it, too, was a radical way to re-envision American foreign policy. Where Bush and Obama glaringly part ways, however, is in their ability to convey a deep understanding of what it takes to achieve a radical change. Whereas Obama tried his damnedest to make sure nobody should expect overnight victory, Bush always tried his damnedest to make it seem like victory was already at hand---whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan, in New Orleans, in our schools, or in our homes. Bush was either unwilling or unable to admit that sacrifices must be made to achieve genuine change. If wishful thinking alone could have changed the world for the better, Bush would have ended up on Mount Rushmore.

I was moved tonight. That's no easy task. We shall see what comes next, but tonight we were spoken to as adults by an adult. If the deeds come anywhere close to matching the words, we're gonna be alright.

2 Comments:

Blogger repliderium.com said...

I disagree with the Bush Doctrine but I agree with your feelings of Obama's speech. I think he does get it and looks into the future beyond himself. As a Canadian, it's a feeling of change that has been a loooong time coming.

February 25, 2009 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Yeah, my stance on the Bush Doctrine is not shared by many, if any, of my close friends. It's one that I support(ed) in theory, but its application was so horrendous that I'm no longer able to judge for myself whether the "idea" is inherently flawed, or if it could be successful in the hands of a much more skilled leader. Something tells me that a similar Obama Doctrine would have a far different effect--especially given how popular Obama is in the international community. His motives would, at a minimum, be perceived as more genuine than those of our former Prez.

Not sure if you watched The West Wing, but there's an episode near the end of the 5th season where President Bartlett espouses something VERY similar to the Bush Doctrine---just more eloquent and less nationalistic. THAT's the doctrine I support.

BARTLET

We're for freedom of speech everywhere. We're for freedom to worship everywhere. We're for freedom to learn... for everybody. And because, in our time, you can
build a bomb in your country and bring it to my country, what goes on in you country is very much my
business. And so we are for freedom from tyranny everywhere, whether in the guise of
political oppresion, or economic slavery, or religious fanaticism, That most fundamental idea cannot be met with merely our support. It has to be met with our strength. Diplomatically, economically, materially. And if pharoah still
don't free the slaves, then he gets the plagues, or my cavalry, whichever gets there first. The
USTR will go crazy and say that we're not considering global trade. Committee members
will go crazy and say I haven't consulted enough. And the Arab world will just go indescriminately crazy. No country has ever had a doctrine of intervention when only
humanitarian interests were at stake. That streaks going to end Sunday at noon.

February 25, 2009 at 3:03 PM  

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