(original post-date: September 29, 2010)
Last week, Bill Clinton was a guest on Letterman. And when I learned he was in the line-up, I anxiously tuned in.
It wasn’t that I was all excited about seeing the photos from Chelsea’s recent wedding. In fact, I had forgotten even that it happened. (Pardon my lack of school-girl glee.)
No. What I tuned in for was to witness the power – to witness what a man (I promise to edit that word if history ever requires it) can accomplish after he (ditto) has been President of the United States.
I was not disappointed. After proud papa Bill shared with Letterman’s audience two enlarged black-and-white photos from the recent nuptials, our former president described what he’s been up to (besides losing weight), and it seems he’s replaced the French fries in his diet with efforts that might be viewed as “no small potatoes.” (Okay, is that just the worst pun?) But seriously: through his Global Initiative, Clinton is doing amazing things – promoting innovation that has the capacity to make our world a more sustainable place. Through his Foundation, equally amazing projects are underway – for the betterment of humanity worldwide.
Clinton also has some very strong opinions about the nation’s economy and how to solve the unemployment problem. He seems to “get it” in a way that makes sense… in a way that could allow sense to be made.
But… oh yeah, there are people in the way. Elected people. You know the type. They have this knack for standing in the way of progress.
… Several weeks earlier, on yet another broadcast of Letterman, Brian Williams was the headlining guest. (And okay, is it just me, or is he, like, the perfect guy? Cute. Uber-intelligent. Funny as hell. Anyway…) Dave asked Williams about the current state of affairs, which – along with child-rearing – is the topic Letterman discusses with his guests most often these days.
In response to his host’s query, Williams referenced an article he had read that day (or maybe the day before) in a London newspaper. According to that article, Williams shared, Obama may be setting himself up as a one-term President. Williams didn’t editorialize on the article’s slant; he simply shared it.
And, I gotta tell you, hearing of that possibility got me hopeful.
But don’t get me wrong, either.
I am NOT anti-Obama. I think the man is awesome, and when he won in 2008, I felt the same sense of relief that others did. Finally, after eight years of grotesque tyranny, there was this sense that our nation would be restored to a time when individual needs would trump the needs of profit-seeking bullies like Halliburton. There was this sense that our country had collectively come out of a fog. That by voting for intelligence, grace, and compassion, we would be returned, collectively, to a more humanistic national attitude.
But: as the Tea Partiers and general spinelessness on the Hill have made clear, we are nowhere closer to humanism than we were during Bush II’s reign of terror.
Of course, we must acknowledge that the current cacophony didn’t start with that pathetic rancher-turned-baseball-owner-turned-now-do-you-like-me-Dad? president. For decades, the machine behind our nation’s political system has consistently revealed that our country (our alleged “democracy”) is run not by individuals, but by corporations. It’s a disgusting mess, that machine, and a person with a big heart and compassionate visions will likely always be lost within it.
That’s why a part of me likes the idea of Obama being a one-term President. I say, let him out of that trap. Free him to do some real good in this world.
Look at Jimmy Carter. My God, that humble man who had nothing up his sleeve when he entered the Oval Office was completely swallowed up in the pill that is Washington. He didn’t have a chance. But post-presidency? His legacy is mind-blowing. He is an amazing human being, and now in his mid-eighties, he appears to be unstoppable.
Presidential power seems to come from the title, not the term. And I like it that Obama will always have that title in front of his name.
He deserves it. He deserves to do as much as he can with it.
So whether or not Obama is re-elected in 2012, I have hope. Because I believe that this remarkable man – still so young – will spend the rest of his life delivering on the compassion and sense of justice that got him elected. He will never tire of striving for positive change.
And once he’s free of the politicking required inside the beltway, he will move mountains.
I’m not saying I hope it begins in 2013, but I truly cannot wait to witness Obama’s next chapter.
We need more ex-Presidents who genuinely care.