So the election’s over, and no matter who you voted for it was pretty amazing to see the emotion and pride that seemed to sweep across the nation and the world. Obama has inspired people, and he hasn’t done a single presidential act yet.
McCain gave a wonderfully gracious concession speech. Obama an equally gracious victory speech. And that’s what made me proud. After all the absurdity of this election – the commentary and back-biting rising to deafening levels – To see both sides acting like adults and talking about the country as great…
It was like opening the doors of an old barn. Wow. The sun is out, the breeze is blowing. I feel proud to be American. And for the first time in a long time I think the rest of the world wished they were American.
And already I’ve heard people saying Obama is a great President! That he’ll be in for eight years! That the nation and the world will never be the same! Folks, he hasn’t done anything yet… relax… we’ve got a long time to see how this will go, and lots of history to show these moments are like a first crush.
Remember Jimmy Carter? He won the Presidency by a similar margin of the popular vote. And he’s a guy who’s Presidency is never listed among the greats… but it started well. On the day of his inauguration he decided to not take the limo back to the Whitehouse. (a distance of a couple miles) Instead, he and his family took an impromptu walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. They strolled among the American’s who put him in power. Those he would represent. And it was heralded as the beginning of something different and great.
And it wasn’t.
Which brings me to my real observation here. Just in my short lifetime it’s really clear that Presidents can not be judged on their first day, or their last. Their impact, and the American people’s feelings on them, take time to settle.
And I’ve come to believe that 2 four year terms is a bad idea. I think 1 six year term would be far better, especially considering the first term of every President is only three years long. – The fourth year is always spent trying to keep their job.
I think about FDR. Our only President to have more than 2 Terms. Not only was he in office for more than 12 years, he was in his fourth term when he died. After guiding the nation from Great Depression through WWII, who knows how long we would have had him! Thus, we now have a 2 term limit.
But since then, especially in our age of over information, I don’t think anyone survives eight years well. Compare any picture of a president when he enters office to one when he leaves. That’s not eight years of aging there, it’s close to twenty. George W entered office looking like a vital man 15 years younger than his age and he’s leaving looking like a Potato.
Same for Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton. The job beats up on people.
I’ve noticed that Obama is already grayer than when the campaigning started. I suspect he’ll be all gray, or maybe white-haired by the time he’s done.
But that brings me back to my “8 years is too long” comment. Presidents who don’t die in office leave the job under a cloud of public anger. And since none have died in office during my lifetime it’s all I’ve known.
Yet we have awfully short memories.
Ronald Reagan got re-elected in one of the biggest landslide victories in American History. Think Obama got a Mandate from the people? Reagan’s numbers make him look like we couldn’t decide.
But by the time he left office I remember all the commentary on Reagan. A crook. A puppet. An old man being used. Senile (which considering his later years is especially harsh). This was not a universally loved President on his last day in office.
And Clinton? Seems the whole country is longing for the Clinton years in recent days. But at the end of his eight years, I remember even democrats who had championed him before were now speaking out with loathing.
“The Simpsons” – great cultural touchstone of the last two decades – put a perfect button on the sentiment. In one episode near the end of Clinton’s second term Lisa gets advice from President Clinton. She balked at his advice and said “that’s pretty lousy advice”, to which he responded “I’m a pretty lousy President.”
Yet for the last few years he’s the one who got away. And you could say it was because “W” has been so bad, except for the venom I remember about Reagan’s last days…
But Reagan’s funeral told the tale. Universal and worldwide outpouring of his greatness. Republican’s and Democrats alike praising his great leadership and a Presidency unlike any we’ve had since… Hang on? At the end of 8 years he couldn’t go fast enough and now you miss him so much you want to reanimate the guy and run him again!?
Celebrities and world leaders crowded his funeral. It was Worldwide mourning matched only by the death of Lady Diana… and she never ruined public opinion of herself by actually running a country.
George Jr. is on his way out. Hated. Villainized. Can’t go fast enough for most people. But what will history say? Right now he’s that relationship we’ve all been in for too long. And Obama is the hot new person who just smiled at us.
Where are we eight years from now? Who’s the villain then?
I don’t want Obama to bring “Hope”. I hope he brings Pride. I want to feel what I did last night as McCain spoke and then he spoke. I want to see the world looking up at him like all those people did in Grant Park.
But at some point… History suggests this love affair is going south.
And only time away will allow us to decide what we really feel.
Looking back on relationships tends to make you see the good stuff. Let’s hope the here and now gets some good stuff too.