Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Obama Inauguration: Hopes Ride on Smart Guy; Time To Forgive?

My wife and I watched Barack Obama's inauguration this morning – I realized with surprise that this is the first inauguration I've seen. Didn't care about Bush's; was working when Clinton and Reagan came in; wasn't paying attention prior to that.

Nice that a million people can show up and, according to news reports, not a single person had to get arrested. 

The Man from We Hope

I didn't vote for Barack, I'm a Libertarian, not a Democrat or Republican, so I don't agree with the standard policies views he tends to take. But like a lot of us, I am rooting for him anyway. I hope he succeeds, because we need him to succeed – to move the economy in the right direction (or at least not screw it up; nobody really knows how to improve the economy, but there are lots of well-established ways to ruin it), to resolve our wars and our many foreign entanglements, and to move the federal government away from its intrusions on our liberties. And maybe—one can hope—to back the Presidency down from the power grabs of recent years. 

I hope he can do all this, or even make great strides in good directions. I hope he turns out to be the best president we've ever had, and earns a second term from it. Pulling out of the power dive we've gotten into, in so many areas of public life, is too important for partisan politics. 

Smart Guy

Can he do it? Nobody knows. But as one commentator remarked, when it comes to the economy, he hasn't said anything in particular to suggest he has any new ideas, or knows anybody with good new ideas, for fixing it; so far it's been a combination of conventional wisdom and FDR-style boosterism (which, judging by the record, simply doesn't work). He's lining up a bunch of Clinton-era bureaucrats, and that's either bad, or maybe it's good, considering the state of the economy under Clinton. 

Obama's a smart guy, that becomes clearer and clearer with every day. Notice how his election-day acceptance speech he performed without notes. Flawlessly, and eloquently. He gave his inauguration speech, which they say he wrote the day before, also without notes; it was likewise eloquent, well formed, sensible, clear, flowing – and flawless. This guy's smart. 

And his campaign was apparently one of the best-run campaigns ever. This guy is scary smart. Or maybe reassuringly smart. 

Time to Forgive.

One thing I hope his presidency does accomplish is changing the race debate (if you can call it a debate) once and for all. What I want to happen is this: I want Black America to forgive White America. 

We've made vast improvements in race relations, on a formal and on a day-to-day level, for the last fifty years. But the bitterness, the accusatory tone, the wagging finger, the blame game continues. Not surprising: Activists need to keep the guilt level high to keep moving forward, and fear backsliding. But fifty years of guilt-tripping gets old, it gets tired, and it risks backlash of its own. 

Black America has come a long way in fifty years. Now that we've elected a black President, I think it's time for black people finally to forgive white people. Forgive us for the crimes some of our ancestors committed against most of their ancestors. Forgive, and drop the excuses. We've carried the burden long enough, and far enough. My personal ancestors didn't come here until after slavery was over, and were themselves poorly treated in their home country; your ancestors were slaves but you weren't and your grandmother wasn't. And while bad effects follow such crimes, after 150 years and a black President, it's time to start over, launch a new era, and become one country. 

Cute Kid

Story is, while the Obama family was touring D.C. before the Inauguration, they stopped at the Lincoln Memorial and saw Lincoln's Inaugural Address carved on the side. Barack's older girl says, "You have to give one of them?", meaning an Inaugural Address. He says, Yes. 

She says "Humph. First African-American President. It better be good...." 

Smart kid. I wonder if we're seeing the glimmer of another future president there....

Mr. President. Hmmm...

I worry about the Imperial Presidency issue. Nothing isolates a high-level politician like being treated like royalty. And that starts with the 'Mr. President' convention. In DC you hear the story of Jack Kennedy, after his oath, ran into his colleague, Tip O'Neal--both were Massachusetts pols and old friends. Jack told him to still call him Jack -- O'Neal said no, it's Mr President - for the rest of your life.

This is bad. He's a human being, not a king, not royalty. The notion of respect for the office overcomes good sense. The office gets too damned much respect as it is, if you ask me. He's just the head of the executive branch of what is supposed to be a limited-government democracy. This compulsion to tug the forelock, which is obviously not limited to Brits, is a very bad habit. George Washington fought against it all his life. His successors don't. We should.

1 comment:

Charles said...

A President of one party and Congress controlled by the other party (Reagan)is the best case scenario in our current form of national government. Also good is if the opposing party controls either the Senate or the House (Clinton). Then the government can't do much, but that is what I want them to do.