I have to tell you: I do get discouraged. I look at the horrible, monumental crimes and fuck-ups of this so-called Administration–from Iraq to Katrina to Abramoff to torture to everything else–and I cringe in horror at how we are fighting and scraping for every inch of our lives just to try to pick up a measly 20 House seats and 6 Senate seats. This shouldn’t be so hard, I say to myself.
Indeed, sometimes I become apoplectic with an almost violent rage. We should be picking up 50, 60 House Seats and 15 Senate seats, I tell myself. After all, historians have already concluded that this is the worst administration in history–and we still have years left to go.
But then, history itself cheers me up again. And on this day–five years and a day after the attacks of 9/11–it is to history that I would like you to turn for inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose.
It is not just that, all told, Bush is the worst president in the history of the United States. That much is clear enough–even to some on the right wing. No–Bush is, in historical terms, a failure of a truly epic and colossal magnitude. Bush is sui generis–a creature all his own. There never has been, and never will be in American history, anything like him again.
Now, an astute person might respond, “But Spoon–that should make our major struggles for comparatively minor gains even MORE infuriating and depressing, no?”
From one perspective, it might–if it’s the Administration failures you concentrate on.
But what I want to focus your attention on today is this Administration’s ADVANTAGES. Yes, its advantages. For it is in the inherent advantages that Bush was given–and squandered–that the truly extraordinary story lies, and the source of my renewed focus and inspiration.
Great men are made, not born.
This statement is truer that most people know. Without the Civil War, would Abraham Lincoln be on Mount Rushmore? Without WWII and the Great Depression, would FDR have won a third term? Would we know the name Martin Luther King, Jr., had he been born a slave 150 years earlier?
The truth is that sometimes history creates opportunities for men and women to achieve a greatness that they could never have achieved themselves. Sometimes they achieve it in the face of monumental odds; sometimes the odds are not so difficult.
Bush has squandered an extraordinary opportunity to achieve an almost unparalleled greatness–with virtually every advantage a person could have, and little to no opposition.
Let’s look at some presidential comparisons, shall we? Abraham Lincoln (a success) was given the Civil War; FDR (a success) was given the Great Depression and WWII; Nixon (a mixed bag, but largely a failure) was given Vietnam and a nation in the midst of social revolution. Let’s see what advantages and disadvantages they had.
Abraham Lincoln: Inherited a divided country, and a viciously brutal press both in the South and the North.
FDR: Had to contend with William Randolph Hearst as the primary journalist of his day–and no friend of FDR, by a long shot.
Nixon: Had to contend with Walter Cronkite and the intrepid reporters of the Washington Post.
Bush: The leading opinion and newsman of Bush’s day was Bill O’Reilly, Bush’s own propagandist.
The political opposition:
Lincoln: Lincoln had a hostile Northern Congress, in large part; and the Southern Delegates seceded from the Union, so badly did they despise Lincoln.
FDR: FDR’s grand plans won him the enmity of much of Congress, who didn’t like him upsetting the status quo.
Nixon: Had to deal with a truly hostile Democratic congress.
Bush: Republican House, Republican Senate. Pathetic Opposition (Joe Lieberman, anyone?)
The Electoral Opposition:
Lincoln: Divided between the Hawks and the Copperheads, Lincoln easily trounced his divided opposition.
FDR: Easily trounced his presidential opponent in every election.
Nixon: Won in a landslide over George McGovern.
Bush: Went up against the DLC and John Freaking Kerry–and only won 51% of the vote–if that.
The Wartime Enemy:
Lincoln: Had to face the entire South, with Robert E. Lee at its head. The North won.
FDR: Hirohito and Hitler. Need I say more? Destroyed both.
Nixon: The Vietcong, with the full backing of Red China, in the context of the possible nuclear annihilation of the Cold War. Lost–but “winning” was really never an option.
Bush: a ragtag band of terrorists, with a 6’5″ man on a dialysis machine, hiding in caves, for their leader. In Iraq, a crazed but impotent despot with no weapons and an army that rolled over in less than a week. Bin Laden remains at large, and Iraq is a disaster.
Domestic situation and economy:
Lincoln: The economy was shattered–and there was a freaking Civil War!
FDR: The Great Depression. ‘Nuff said.
Nixon: Good economy, but a nation in the midst of extraordinary social upheaval.
Bush: Inherited from Clinton record surplusses, and one of the greatest economies in American history.
So let’s put this into perspective, shall we?
Before 9/11, Bush was a mediocre and almost laughable president. Stem Cells were the biggest issue of the day.
When 9/11 happened, the nation cried out desperately for a leader. Almost all of us put ourselves in Bush’s hands and tabled our partisanship, and were willing to do almost anything that Bush asked. Bush was given an extraordinary opportunity at greatness.
What’s more, he had EVERY ADVANTAGE IN THE WORLD: A favorable and kowtowing press. Pathetic or nonexistent political opposition. A pathetically easy enemy to fight. And a great economy.
And he blew it all.
And he STILL holds most of those same advantages.
What is truly incredible is not that we aren’t making bigger gains; it that only FIVE YEARS AFTER ONE OF THE GREATEST SHOCKS IN AMERICAN HISTORY, and with every possible advantage handed to him on a silver platter, this president has a 35% approval rating, and 36% of the country wants to impeach him.
And he hasn’t even been blamed for letting it happen or failing to prevent it, he’s been treated with such kid gloves.
Historically speaking, given his opportunities for greatness and the advantages he was given, Bush is a failure of truly cataclysmic porportions that will become obvious with the advantage of historical distance.
So do not despair, folks. Take heart.
It may be frustrating at times to watch the public apathy in the face of monumental failure, but you must remember that we are up against extraordinary odds: a president given EVERY shot at greatness, with a public that WANTS him to be great–and virtually no opposition to speak of until recently.
And he’s STILL going to lose the House, and maybe the Senate–and impeachment may just be around the corner.
That’s because he has created a governmental failure of such epic proportions that, when we look back on it 20 or 30 years from now, will practically need its own monument.
So get to work with renewed hope. Let’s start chiseling that monument now, and send these criminals packing.