I received a text message from a friend today which simply read, “Change is on the way!”
How true that is.
It’s a great testament to our Democracy that every four years we go to the polls, elect a our commander in chief, and transition smoothly between administrations. Largely without incident and often with great diplomacy, our well-oiled political machine ensures continuity and a nearly seamless change of hands that we can all be proud of.
President Bush addressed the nation tonight, surrounded by political allies from his administration, to bid the nation farewell and to reflect on his last eight years as president. He went back over some of the difficult decisions that he made and attempted to frame them in the context he finds suitable for the history books. By all counts, the proverbial jury will be out for some time. For now, his legacy doesn’t look good.
As I watched him on my television and reflected with him, I felt many conflicting emotions. I supported the president in his election bid in 2000, and was proud of him in 2001 as he unified the nation after the September 11th attacks. Then, gradually, I was more and more appalled by the actions taken by his White House. By 2004, I was ready for a change. In 2008, after backing Hillary Clinton until her withdrawal from the race, I ultimately found myself behind John McCain. After teetering back and forth across the aisle for years, it’s no surprise that I find myself ambivalent toward the departure of the president, but I must say I catch myself off guard with one repeating sentiment.
America, you’re going to miss George W. Bush.
Don’t hit the comment button just yet. I’m not saying he was a great president. There have been more days when I’ve wanted him gone than I’ve wanted him in office, and my anger and frustration over his policies and practices runs wide and deep. But you have to admit, there’s something to be said for the fact that we haven’t been attacked since 9/11. There’s something to be said for the fact that we had record home-ownership rates and a record Dow Jones Average before the Democrats took over congress in 2006. And there’s something to be said for the fact that said Congress has consistently had a lower approval rating than the president since their takeover. Yes, even as I’m writing this blog.
Even abroad, where we undoubtedly have accumulated more enemies than friends over the past 8 years, I can’t help but feel a small since of longing over Bush’s departure. Though I’m a strong believer in diplomacy, it’s hard not to admit that there is a part of me which has slept easier since 2001. No matter what you think of Bush’s foreign policies – and I find many of them appalling – you know that it gives pause to hostile foreign governments and enemy combatants to know that this president is the president that will gladly ‘push the button’ in retaliation. So maybe having a cowboy war-monger in charge hasn’t been the worst thing. The proof has been in the pudding.
America officially enters a new chapter on Tuesday, and I have to say I’m ready for a change in direction. The past few weeks have been a demonstration of marvelous cooperation between the outgoing Bush Administration and the incoming Obama Administration, and I have little doubt that Obama & Co. will have no difficulty hitting the ground running on day one. Let there also be no doubt that we will see a radical change in direction back to left-of-center in our leadership, and it will manifest itself in many ways – some good, some bad.
Whether Obama turns out to be more of an FDR or a JFK will likely depend on the fundamentals of our economy over the next 4 years. Whether he’s more Carter or Clinton will depend greatly on how he interacts with the Congress and whether or not he delivers on campaign promises. More likely than not, we will see the angels and demons of each of these foregone administrations as well as many Republican administrations over the next four years, and Obama will find his own niche in history as president.
For now, all we can do is give the incoming president a chance to govern, and hold him accountable to deliver on what he has pledged. With his staff nearly in place and the oath ready to be taken, a new reality is beginning to set in. Change, it has been said, is on the way.
Congratulations, Mr. President-elect. God Bless America.