Just one more post on this, pardon my self-indulgence (though that is of course the birthright of any self-respecting blogger.) I cannot believe, as I write this, that the Bush presidency (and Cheney vice-presidency) has a little less than three hours to go. I know it doesn’t speak well of me, and exposes me for the petty, vindictive person that I am, but as excited as I am about Obama becoming president, I am twice as excited that Bush is leaving.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I earn my keep as a historian of the African American experience. Later this week I will be going down to Morehouse College for a few days, where I am sure the joint will still be jumpin.’ I listened this morning to a collection of freedom songs from the Civil Rights era and some spirituals by Marian Anderson, thinking of her 1939 concert on the Washington Mall, and what she would think today, and what every man, woman, and child who bore the lash of slavery, who suffered through Jim Crow and its de facto northern equivalent, and every person of every color, creed, and religion, who was ever marginalized and devalued by the powerful white men of British extraction who have run this country from the beginning, would think today. Harriet Tubman, Crazy Horse, Sidney Hillman, Susan B. Anthony, Howard Thurman, Mother Jones, Denmark Vesey, Jose Marti, Joseph Brant, Paul O’Dwyer, and my dad, Joseph Eisenstadt, who died ten years ago to the day, this is for you.
But tomorrow Obama starts to disappoint people, and tomorrow Obama’s racial background ceases to matter. His ethnic background will not have any impact on how we judge what he decides to do about the TARP money, the aftermath of Israel’s brutal war against Gaza, the stimulus package, getting out of Iraq and Guantanamo, and the myriad of other issues he is faced with. Today is his last day as a symbol.
So with that in mind, I can only think that whatever the Obama turns out to be, and we start today full of hopes--with the knowledge that for the first time in 16 years (the first two years of the Clinton presidency), no make that 33 years (the opening years of the Carter presidency), no make that 45 years (the first two years of the Johnson presidency), really, for the first time in our adult lifetimes, the Democrats control both houses of Congress, the White House, and the national agenda--I am glad, above all, that George W. Bush’s eight plus years of mendacious, meretricious, malevolent rule is about to end. Starting with his lying over the Florida recount, to his distortions over 9/11, to the horrors of the unnecessary war in Iraq, to the tortures, invasions of privacy, malfeasance over Katrina, and maladministration of the economy, the Bush administration has been a disaster from beginning to end. We have been governed by a bunch of small, petty men (and women, too, Condoleeza), who have ruled by smirks and innuendo, by cliché, and by an utterly unearned hauteur and sense of superiority.
Okay, I’m really excited about Obama, too, and hope my heart isn’t broken too badly in the years to come. And if it is, I’ll always have today. But every inauguration day is also an expiration day, I for one will be incredibly glad that the moment Barack Hussein Obama takes the oath of office, George W. Bush becomes, as we historians like to say, history.