Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Reruns: Presidential Power... after the fact

(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.


Martha Mawson said...

I agree - Barack Obama, President Emeritus, will be a very powerful man upon leaving the White House, whenever that may be. But his power will always be for the good - and the whole world will benefit from it. It is a sad state of affairs that he is more popular in the rest of the than in his own country. The rest of world must, no doubt, feel only confusion at his low approval ratings. The stark truth is that inside the Beltway, it is nearly impossible for an honest, intelligent, and compassionate man to be heard, acknowledged, or admired.

In time, the Tea Party will break off from the Republican Party and fester in its own little pool of hatred and intolerance. But until they do, the whole process is held to ransom by the loud whining cries of the bottom feeders.

I recently read a comment about politicians and, while amusing, it was also sadly appropriate. Politicians should wear jumpsuits, just like NASCAR drivers. At least, that way, we would know who was sponsoring them.

Melissa Sarno said...

Excellent, excellent post. Someone with the biggest and bravest ideas should have the title of 'President of the United States' but maybe those ideas would have better legs in another role. It's an interesting way to look at it. And sad to think about, too.

Theresa Milstein said...

Every time I hear Bill Clinton speak, I'm impressed. And I love to see how he tries to use his celebrity for good, like Al Gore and Bill Gates.

Politics depresses me so much. I'm a Social Studies teacher, and I avoid it. That's how bad it is. For the last election, it was the first time in my life that I made CALLS for the campaign.


Green Monkey said...

Thank you Katie. That was a very hopeful post. I am a huge Obama supporter and I think Clinton is a brilliant man and gifted speaker. And YES, Jimmy Carter is a good man!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, insightful post! I am definitely glad that the Big Dog is out there cutting through the nonsense and offering common sense to the crazy dialogue out there. I hope that Obama, or whoever his successor is, can get past this deadlocked Congress and get some things done. However, if that doesn't happen, I am reminded to have hope of what this man can and will do when he's out of office.

Anonymous said...

I've always believed that a president needs to continue being a "president" after the fact. We still call them Mr. President, after all -- I think it's worthwhile for them to continue being ambassadors of peace and progress even after they take their last step out of the oval office.

Could you imagine what FDR could have done after he was out of office? (Damn death!) Bill Clinton is a fantastic example, and it's my hope that Obama will be the same kind of figurehead.

Jayne Martin said...

Clinton as an ex-Prez is much better than Clinton as Prez. I couldn't care less about Monica. I'm still pissed off about NAFTA, telecom dereg, bank dereg, DADT and DOMA. But yes, he has become a statesman and is doing incredible things. He's got something Obama doesn't and may never have though. He knows how to fight for something. Get down and dirty and let it rip if necessary. I fear our young newby Prez may never rise above words over deeds.