Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Second Coming

I know I’m not the most optimistic guy on the planet. I tend to take a darker, more cynical view of things. It’s not a conscious decision -- it’s just the way I’m hardwired. Which is why, as we count the days to that magical moment on the 20th, I can’t help but wonder:

Can Obama fulfill our expectations?

Can anybody?

I’ve lived through ten presidential terms (starting with Truman, if you must know), and I, like most people, have watched the country sink ever deeper into an apparently bottomless Slough of Despond, once the Sixties were over. (Kennedy’s death seemed to galvanize us for a while, but unfortunately, we “grew up” and eagerly let ourselves be co-opted. A pity we all couldn’t have stayed eighteen for as long as it took.)

Carter, a Democrat, was ineffectual as a president. So the country scurried back to the right and elected a senile cowboy -- who did accomplish some things, such as helping end the Cold War. After Reagan we had H.W., and after him Clinton, who was, at least as far as I was concerned, a pretty decent president, with just one problem -- which got him impeached by a hostile Congress. And so we were back to the Republicans, specifically the Bush family, more specifically W.

I’m not all that astute a student of either politics or history, but I have no problem assigning Bush the Lesser the title of Worst. President. Ever. Which is pretty bad, considering it puts him up against the likes of James Buchanan, John Tyler and Richard Nixon. History, as they say, will judge.

But now -- Huzzah! We’ve been slouching toward Bethlehem for so long, it’s hard to believe that in a mere week the Second Coming will arrive. Never has the country been in such desperate straits, both financially and in terms of foreign policy. And not for a long time have we had the combination of a Democratic president and legislature. The Republicans weren’t just defeated -- they were tarred, feathered and given the next rail out of town.

Now it’s up to Obama. I’m as anxious to see him succeed as everyone else -- more than most, since I’m hoping stem cell research will be high on his list of restorations of sanity. But what worries me is that, no matter how much he accomplishes in his first day -- even his first week -- it won’t be enough. It can’t be.

We want miracles. We expect miracles. And we’re not going to get them. Because there are no quick and easy fixes to the monstrous legacy that Bush II has left us.

Of course, if Obama walks across the Reflecting Pool to get to the Lincoln Memorial next Tuesday, all bets are off.

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