We know his disgraceful deeds and policies. But it's his utter lack of quality; his unsubstantial presence; his marble-mouthed oratorical retardation; his inability to inspire greatness; and his empty-suit absence of intellectual curiosity which preordained him to be the worst President of the United States in modern history.
Admittedly, when it comes to the presidency, my personal level of idealism rests somewhere between Frank Capra and Aaron Sorkin. I'm a presidential geek. One of my life goals is to work in the White House for one week. My Dad's old office at the Treasury Department used to look out over the east lawn, and when I was a kid I used to imagine that one day the president would invite me and my Dad for a ride on Marine One.
But after seven years in this Dark Age, I've almost forgotten what it was like to have a real president occupying the White House: a president who, even if I disagreed with his policies and ideology, dignified the office with a stature that symbolized the awesomeness of America.
Emerson wrote, "Every hero becomes a bore at last. Perhaps Voltaire was not bad-hearted, yet he said of the good Jesus, even, 'I pray you, let me never hear that man's name again.'"
We seem to experience this routine with almost every two-term president. But President Bush was never a hero in the first place and only grew more ridiculous with each subsequent crime against the Constitution, against human decency and against democracy itself. If there's any justice left in this nation, history will record that President Bush was an entirely inadequate tool; a bungling villain whose early popularity grew out of a traumatic and patriotic need to support the office regardless of who occupied it.
And when the flood waters literally rose up and washed away the disguise, the slack-jawed poseur was revealed -- the "bore" who had always been there, but who had been previously and cynically costumed in cowboy drag. Some of us recognized the charade from the beginning, but it required a second national tragedy, this time in New Orleans, to alert the media and the rest of America to his criminal incompetence.
American history is inextricably tied to the presidency. It's how we mentally assemble the chronology of our past. For going on eight years, we've endured a chief executive who never should have ascended to this post. Consequently, this decade has been an aberration; a time when Americans somehow championed an illegitimate, Orwellian hooplehead and naturally suffered the consequences. This is how most of the first decade of this century will be remembered.
Yet our generation is being offered another chance here -- an opportunity to set things straight and elect a president who not only illustrates the historical qualities of the office, but who also defines an energetic new approach.
The next president has to be Senator Barack Obama.
Senator Obama's intelligence, passion and quality of character can inspire us to recapture our own potential for greatness. And after all these years of darkness, there is no alternative other than to correct our trajectory with someone who can elevate our common goals -- the American Dream. For the American Dream to survive, this era demands a new president who will include all of us in the debate over our future, whether or not we agree on every issue.
And I'm proud to say that I don't agree with the senator on everything. But it doesn't matter because this campaign is about much more than individuals and their pet issues. This is about the reacquisition of an ideal -- of a benevolent greatness which has been stolen away from us.
I see in Senator Obama an historic character who fits within my persnickety and idealistic template for the presidency -- and this time around, it happens that my idealistic choice has a realistic chance to win. So this isn't necessarily an endorsement based on ideology, but an endorsement based on that which is required from an historical perspective.
The alternatives on either side of this campaign are ultimately redundant to what we have now.
On the Republican side, each frontrunner represents a rage-inducing aspect of the present Bush regime. The Romney Unit represents the Paris Hilton fiscal policy of the Bush administration; Giuliani is the unstable, crazy-ass hubristic gunslinger; and Mike Huckabee is the cross-bearing fundamentalist who floats in the same fantasy world as Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort.
On the Democratic side, John Edwards is a tough call because he has the right idea. But there was a thing with Edwards from 2004 that I can't seem to shake. And I've really, really tried. During one of the primary debates, Howard Dean stood up to answer a question. As was the campaign fashion at the time, Dean rolled up his sleeves. Then, behind him, I spotted John Edwards whose eyes suddenly widened at Dean's sleeve-rolling as if to say, Oh crap, I should roll up my sleeves now or else I won't be awesome like Howard. Then he quickly rolled up his sleeves. It was an awkwardly candid moment which revealed a lack of originality and, for my admittedly nitpicky tastes, a little too much of the staged illusion of it all. But most importantly, I imagined him exhibiting the same derivative behavior when voting with the president on Iraq.
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