Well, it's been two weeks since the election and I'm still amazed about the outcome. Not only have we elected the first African American president, but President-Elect Obama (oooh, I just love saying that, "President-Elect Obama") is conducting his transition just as expertly as he did his grueling two year campaign--calmly, deliberately and with the help of some very highly qualified policy advisers.
One good thing about these arduous campaigns, we really do get to know the candidate we've elected. Whatever flaws they have, we know them all at the start. There's no way of telling how those flaws will hurt their presidency, but looking back at the major presidential disasters over the years, you have to say "Well, it isn't like we didn't know."
When we elected Ronald Reagan, we knew he was an actor. So what did he do for eight years? He "played" the part of the president while other people ran the country. Hence, the Iran-Contra scandal. While he busy answering letters from ten year old boys wanting their bedrooms declared federal disaster areas, (just like fan mail from his old Hollywood days) Ollie North and company were selling arms to moderate Iranians to fund the anti-Sandinistas in Nicaragu, against the rule of Congress.
We all knew that Bill Clinton was a womanizer. Or to be blunt about it, this was a guy who just couldn't keep it in his pants. Remember the flap about Genifer Flowers? He also had a huge ego and we knew that too. I can't say I was exactly surprised by the Monica Lewinsky fiasco, but I was disappointed. I'd hoped he'd have been smart enough not to get blow jobs from a White House intern in the Oval Office.
We also were well aware of George Bush's problems, although they were presented as strengths. He was a charming ne'er-do-well, the rebellious son of a wealthy, respected politician. He'd spent his whole life dependent on his family name, using it to get out of going to Viet Nam, to get into Harvard, to buy a baseball team. But he was never very good at anything besides drinking too much and being charming, until he found Jesus and gave up drinking. Bush came into his presidency determined to show his dad he really could be Somebody, and he did that by refighting the Gulf War with the intention of winning it. Look how that turned out.
So at this point, what do we know about Barack Obama? He's a great speaker, he's intelligent, he's willing to ask for help, he's always worked hard for whatever he wanted. Here's a list of the bad stuff:
To buy his house, he made a deal with shady Chicago developer Tony Rezko, recently convicted for fraud and bribery.
He attended a church where the minister, Rev. Jeramiah Wright said "God damn America," although it's not known if Mr. Obama was sitting in the pews during that particular sermon.
He is loosely acquainted with a former 1960s radical named William Ayers, head of the infamous Weathermen, who believed they could end the war by blowing things up like the Pentagon and the Haymarket Riot Memorial statue in Chicago. (By the way, the only people the Weathermen ever killed were three of their own members who died putting together a nail bomb). Mr. Obama was a guest in Mr. Ayers' home at a "Meet The Candidate" night and they served together on an anti-poverty foundation called the Woods Fund.
That's pretty much it. There have been no stories of exessive partying or DUIs. There have been none of the Bimbo alerts that plagued Bill Clinton. Unlike the Actor-In-Chief Ronald Reagan, he's not snoozing while others do the real work. His problems have been the things said and done by people he's known, not the things that he's said and done. Okay, he did say that poor people are clinging to guns and religion and he did make that remark about the price of arugula, hardly a scandal in the making.
If President Obama can run his administration in the same disciplined, focused manner he ran his campaign, I really believe he can turn the country around.