Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Graceful vs. Graceless

Michael Gerson attempts a graceful concession to Obama's victory and, other than spinning the fiction that Obama has no mandate and whining about the evils of bloggers1, largely succeeds. You can't, however, sensibly deny that a candidate who openly runs on a platform of ending the war in Iraq and laying the foundation for universal health insurance, then wins with a majority of the popular and a decisive majority of the electoral vote, has no mandate to implement those policies. No matter how many people are assumed to have voted for Obama "even though" he made those promises, as opposed to "because" he made those promises, there was nothing hidden about his agenda and it's more than reasonable for him to assert that he has a mandate to carry it out.
Barack Obama's first years may well be dominated by a recession and a swiftly arming Iran. Some conservatives will be tempted to take joy from his inevitable struggles; others to spin conspiracy theories from his background and associations. It will be easy to blame every emerging challenge on the faults and failures of an inexperienced young president. But it will be more difficult for me.

* * *

There is a tremendous sense of history and responsibility that comes with serving in the White House. You gain an appreciation for the conflicted choices others have faced - and for the untamed role of history in frustrating the best of plans. It becomes easier to understand a president's challenges and harder to question his motives. Ultimately, I believe that every president, and the staff he hires, feels the duty to serve a single national interest. And, ultimately, we need our presidents to succeed, not to fail for our own satisfaction or vindication.

This presidency in particular should be a source of pride even for those who do not share its priorities. An African American will take the oath of office blocks from where slaves were once housed in pens and sold for profit. He will sleep in a house built in part by slave labor, near the room where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation with firm hand. He will host dinners where Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 entertained the first African American to be a formal dinner guest in the White House; command a military that was not officially integrated until 1948. Every event, every act, will complete a cycle of history. It will be the most dramatic possible demonstration that the promise of America - so long deferred - is not a lie.
On the other hand, Melanie Phillips is off her meds:
America’s belief in itself as defending individual liberty, truth and justice on behalf of the free world will now be expiated instead as its original sin. Those who have for the past eight years worked to bring down the America that defends and protects life and liberty are today ecstatic. They have stormed the very citadel on Pennsylvania Avenue itself.

Millions of Americans remain lion-hearted, decent, rational and sturdy. They find themselves today abandoned, horrified, deeply apprehensive for the future of their country and the free world. No longer the land of the free and the home of the brave; they must now look elsewhere.
So you're asking yourself, "Who's Melanie Phillips"? She's a British author, who lives in a town she has deemed Londonistan. Apparently, when you're as brave and free, lion-hearted, decent, rational and sturdy as she is, you don't even have to live in the U.S. - so if you share her politics, call her up and see if you can bunk on her sofa.
1. Gerson suggests that bloggers who oppose his political agenda live in "an ideological world of their own creation, viewing anyone outside that world as an idiot or criminal". I've never found a home with the likes of the Kossacks, but I can tell Gerson this much: I think he's the dumbest person to hold a regular, syndicated column at a national newspaper because, by all appearances, he is. Gerson's brand of "compassionate Christianity" is far less offensive than Krauthammer's brand of thoughtless obstreperousness, he doesn't lose himself in a narcissistic haze like Bill Kristol, and he's more intellectually consistent than George Will, but he's still by all appearances the least intelligent of the lot. Sorry. (I once described Gerson as "the feeling man's Republican" - I still think that's apt.)


  1. Um, I guess I live in an ideological world of my own creation. I can live with that.
    I do love watching the NeoCons squirm over this election. :)
    I still can't believe we won!!

  2. Now if Congress can somehow keep itself from... I half want to say "doing what Congress does."


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