This is an ugly question and many of us sensitive souls recoil from it, but doctors, first responders and historians often recoil from what their professions push their faces into. And aren’t we columnists supposed to be like “caddies” to historians, providing the world the “first draft” of history?
C’mon, now, caddies. Push the weeds aside with a five-iron and reveal the answer to this: “How did a country like America ever get saddled with a president like Obama?”
If you’re expecting a Niagara of negatives here – “This president is the worst, the most incompetent, the most dangerous” – please move along. I’m a “paramedic” for this one, not an anti-Obama partisan expressing dismay at this “worst,” least competent, most dangerous etc. We owe history a non-emotional answer; how did we wind up with Obama?
One glimmer of truth may point us toward the answer. A small town down South went into a kind of paralysis when the most attractive woman in town was won over, not by any of the logical, eligible swains, but by a stomp-down, no-account bum. The village philosopher intriguingly said, “I can engineer the most amazing link-ups in history if you’ll just give me a cool scriptwriter, a wardrobe consultant and the right body cologne.”
I wouldn’t know how to pervert the next leadership choice in Belgium, Norway, Finland, Canada – they’re smart people with a correct image of themselves. They wouldn’t fall for it. But America has been sitting here begging for a sucker punch like Obama since the 1990s. Why the 1990s? The mythical “World Cup” for winning World War II went to America. Everybody knew it should have gone to the Soviet Union, but the Soviets were too quick to start imitating the Nazis. America reveled in that unofficial “award.”
Americans in European colleges in the 1950s remember the Dutch girls and the Swedish girls wondering where we were going to get the money to do all that big-deal traveling we bragged about over beer. Trains and buses cost money. “We don’t need trains and buses, Baby,” we’d assure them. “All we need is directions to the right highway and an American flag to wave at the passing cars!” And that worked well, even in Germany (less well in France)!
There’s a similarity in tone between the drug pusher trying to recruit a young addict and a political pusher trying to re-sell lost glory to an America that had it and couldn’t quite keep it at high-pump.
”The world says the United States is a racist country,” the political pusher begins. “You’re not a racist country!”
”Hey,” says the potential buyer. “I like that. Tell me more.”
More comes. “Not only is America not a racist country. You’re a country that bends over backwards to avoid the very appearance of being racist.”
At this point the “Tell-me-more!” is silent, but rendered loudly through body language.
”Remember David Dinkins,” the pusher proceeds, “the black candidate for mayor of New York, who simply didn’t pay income taxes for four years? He said he was just too busy with public service. He stayed on the ballot and won. Can you imagine a white man getting away with that?”
Hurry, please. The patient is panting for more.
”OK,” says the pusher. “I understand that America saved the world, ran the world, ruled the world; but then your young ones started ducking the draft and burning flags, and that was long before 9/11 and a few more unpopular wars. May I tell you how to regain it all – every bit of it and then some – in one easy day?”
The patient is on his knees begging for the password.
”Easier done than said, in a way,” continued the pusher. “Elect a black president!”
Silence, but this time the loud, throbbing kind.
”What have you got to lose? Nixon himself said America is so great it doesn’t even need a president. The black man you elect will surely be a Democrat, so how much damage can he do, what with checks and balances and all that? And he won’t really be qualified in any traditional sense, so the party will scrutinize his every more, to make the path safe for future Democrats. And the world will love you. You’ll exorcise that old racial devil and beat him flat with a broom. You’ll have a whole new sense of national pride in yourself. Look at you! America! Tough enough to beat the real fascist pigs across both oceans, smart enough to beat the world to the moon, decent enough to out-liberate any other nation and morally strong enough to take that slander about racism and shove it down the planet’s gullet so forcefully the world will have to gag ‘Congratulations!’ with whatever voice it can find.”
The Rip van Winkle who heard this imaginative idea back in 1992 just woke up and asked, “Whatever happened to that interesting idea to regain our American supremacy? Did we ever do it?”
And did he ever feel lucky to get safely back to his hollow log. Even though there was a grizzly inside.