Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In Search of...the way we were

The past few days have been eventful for us as a nation. First, former President Bill Clinton successfully got the two imprisoned American journalists out of North Korea, and second we have a new Supreme Court Justice, lucky number 111 and the first Hispanic in our history. All this has happened while new poll numbers show our President's approval rating spiralling ever downward.

I realize that as a people we Americans generally have a miniscule attention span as well as a propensity for significantly short term memory and a perpetual need for instant gratification, a lethal combination when it comes to digging ourselves out of the mess we're in and taking on the responsibilities of actual adults. So naturally the first thing to go is President Obama's popularity because people actually thought he would get in office, wave his magic wand and all would be as it was before - immediately. The only problem with that is it never can or will or should be as it was before, and it's time we stop collectively pouting and start digging in for the long haul. But again, that does't sound like a whole lot of fun.

We would like everything to improve and change while we ourselves don't. How realistic does that sound? I would like to be a size 4 whilst eating potato chips and sitting on my couch, but again, it ain't gonna happen. So it's time we collectively stop the binging and start exercising - which, by the way, would also decrease healthcare costs, but I metaphorically digress.

As I watched Bill Clinton make his way back to the forefront of American politics this week, I couldn't help but harken back myself. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know he's got his personal shortcomings, but I don't care. I miss him. There, I said it. And while me and my fellow Democrats have collectively if not still apprehensively heaved a sigh of relief that our current President appears to leave us free of those particular worries, I still rested better under Bill's watch. Um, also, I still had a 401K and the promise of social security when he was president. Now...not so much. So I get a little misty as I see Bill do what no one else has been able to do - get two American journalists out of North Korea, and while all the pundits are busy arguing whether or not this sets a bad precident for other countries in which Americans are being held captive, I'm busy noticing that Bill is uncharacteristically quiet, standing to the side looking genuinely humble. This is not a moment in which he needs to seek the limelight. It has sought him out and there's really nothing more that needs to be said.

I listen to George Stephanopoulos offering commentary on the goings on, and I watch President Clinton now completely white haired but unable to shake off his natural charisma, even in his self-imposed silence, and I feel the pangs of melancholy. (violins swell as they play "The Way We Were") This was my President - the one who balanced the budget and left office with a surplus, the one under whose watch we thrived, the one who tried to fix healthcare sixteen years ago, the one who wanted to kill Bin Laden and take down the Taliban (before 9/11) but was met with opposition by our own intelligence forces, the military and a Republican Congress. The one who signed the Family Leave act, enabling workers to take time off to care for loved ones without jeopardizing their jobs. Yeah, that guy. The one recent history has relegated to jokes about blow jobs. Say what you will, but we were all a lot better off then. So I'm melancholy.

My report card for President Obama is not yet filed. It is too soon to pass judgement on his ability to reverse the mess he inherited, and for the record, the media needs to stop saying that it has become his mess. He inherited it and that will always be the case. Oh yes, he's trying to fix what took years to create, but give the guy a break. It's like taking the car you totalled to the repair shop to be fixed, and the repairman is doing everything in his power to get the car running again, but after a while you say it's his fault that the car is totalled in the first place. It's just ridiculous.

So while I would like to close my eyes and wake up in a different time, a time when things were both easier and better, all I can do is reminisce about the way we were, and work toward a future that's better than the present.

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