New Years Eve Early Start – Politics

I happpen to be up as New Years Eve begins in my time zone, mostly because my son and I establish our own time zones when we’re on vacation. For such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year overall… I’d have to say that I’m ending 2008 in a generally peaceful and hopeful mood.

In American politics it’s a year which has been a long, long time coming. I’ve been hoping for a turn against the selfish, provincial, narrow-minded attitude set of the neoconservatives since before they were called that, and I believe I am finally beginning to see the backlash I was looking for.

I did appreciate the appeal to grand vision that Ronald Reagan’s oratory gave us, but the incessant jingoism was so horrifically short-sighted and dangerous, and the I’ve-got-mine laissez-faire social policy so blithely uncaring! The absurdly overweaponed shining city on the hill, finally settling the tomato question by having an Act of Congress declare it a vegetable, for the purpose of having ketchup count as a vegetable in the ever-fewer free lunches provided to America’s starving children…

Bush I was a lesser player in both the good and the bad of the era of the American right wing; I voted for him over Clinton actually. In retrospect I’m glad that vote was on the losing side, but I still don’t think a second Bush I term would have been a disaster for America; he was a decent enough President for the times, and for all his lack of eloquence he was far more intelligent and prudent than Reagan.

Bill Clinton won me over by his second term as a guy who knew what he was doing, and he did a surprising amount of good in his two terms, especially given the Republican majorities with increasingly rabid neoconservativism he was saddled with. Still, what he achieved was in spite of that increasingly toxic concentration of neoconservative politics, and he never really hit that core seam of idealism in America while he was in office; like Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, he never dared to speak strongly enough until he was already done with politics.

Reagan was a great President but not a good one; Bush I was a caretaker. Bill Clinton was a good President, but he wasn’t a great one. Of Bush II, of Dubya, probably the less said the better. The highest praise I have for him is a negative; he was never a bigot. That’s literally it; I have nothing else remotely good to say about him. Teapot Dome and Watergate be damned, I truly believe that our 43rd President did more damage to America than any other, bar none.  He is the Joker of American statecraft, and it is a pity no Batman was able to end his misrule.

McCain would have been a continuation of Dubya,  and Clinton would have been a continuation of, well, Clinton. Neither had a real hope of being adequate to the times; these times demand a President who is both good (competent) and great (inspiring). Much as I have disagreed with some of Obama’s positions, we are fortunate indeed to have a leader with the potential to be both. I’d have voted for Clinton (good but not great) over McCain (neither), but it was Obama I worked my ass off for, because of that potential (to be both good and great).

I don’t know how much Obama, even with Democratic majorities in both bodies, can  do to fix the fractal wrongness the neoconservative movement has left the country in – but for the first time in my adult life I have hope that America can really again become the admirable country.

Even the fact that we dared to elect him is a sign of hope that we’re getting past our bigotry, our provincialism, our anti-intellectualism, and can again have real reason to be proud of being American, for those of us who are;  it’s a real reason to hope for ration foreign policy from the last military superpower, for everyone else.

Hope. It goes well with bubbly wine.


~ by B.T. Murtagh on December 31, 2008.

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