Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Kind of President, At Least For Me

For the first time in what seems like an eternity, I feel as if the US is not headed for disaster. The two-bit hooligans who have run our Constitution into the ground for the last eight years are definitely headed out the door, though they have two more months in which to continue their assault on our values, economy, world standing and security. Honestly, they should just go away and hide in shame, but they won't - that would require a measure of self-knowledge that they don't have. But their days are numbered, and for that I am glad. I will rest easier tonight.

We took the girls with us to vote yesterday, because that is a behavior that they should just assume is normal. We had heard all sorts of stories about lines and waits, but at 3:15 on a school day we basically just walked right up and filled in our ballots. I was voter number 942, though - roughly double where it usually is. As noted earlier, I filled in my ballot for Barack Obama - though I still don't have a functional pair of glasses, so for all I know it could have been Barney Google. I don't think Barney was on the ballot, though. My track record in picking winners - from either party, for any office - is laughably poor, so even with the polls as lopsided as they were, I was worried. But the girls went off to play in the school playground - which has much cooler stuff than the one at their own school, apparently - and who can stay tense watching children play?

As the results began to come in and turn the map blue, I felt better. Kim and I sat in bed and watched John McCain's concession speech - a magnanimous and gracious speech that reminded me of why I used to like the man (if not the people behind him). Where was that guy for the last few months? And then we watched Obama give his talk.

Zow. That man can speak.

I don't know how to respond to a President who is both intelligent and articulate. I'm old enough to remember Nixon, who was intelligent but, as Dave Barry once put it, always seemed as if a large and disorganized committee of aliens had taken over his body and was still trying to figure out how to use it - a quality that carried over into his speeches. Ford may have been intelligent, but who could tell? Carter certainly was intelligent, but never managed to sound like it. This could have been the accent, which to my biased Yankee ears never helps. Reagan was perhaps the most articulate president in my lifetime, given to flights of soaring rhetoric that could inspire his supporters, of which I was not one. But credit where credit is due - he could speak. He was an actor, after all. Intelligence was not required of the job, and if he had any he hid it well. Bush the Elder was smart, but a more hopeless speaker you could not find if you interviewed every player in the National Football League. Clinton was brilliant, but never figured out that a velvet fog of verbiage was not the same thing as eloquence. Bush the Younger couldn't pass a junior high English class.

But when Obama gets rolling, he can move mountains. Cadences and ideas just roll down toward us mortals, and even when you think back over what he said, it still sounds good. It's a rare quality.

The girls were very excited this morning when they woke up to find that Obama had won. Not half as excited as we were, we told them. I hope this is the beginning of a new era, one that will repudiate the nightmare of the Bush Lite years. I know this will take time, and that Obama will disappoint, will fall short, will not be able to change things quickly or at times at all - but still, a President can do things, and I think he will.

This isn't change, he said. This is the opportunity for change.

I'll take it.

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