How long has it been? Well, I last checked into this place in 2005. I guess a lot of time has passed. Does it matter? Let’s check:
2005: At war in Afghanistan.
2009: At war in Afghanistan.
2005: At war in Iraq
2009: At war in Iraq
2005: Economy straining under the weight of two wars, investors getting rich on vapor securities
2009: “Is this the end of the bread line?”
2005: Patriot Act II
2009: Socialist Act I
Of course, in 2005 we were in year 5 of George Bush, and looking down the barrel of 3 more. Who could have predicted just how bad those three years would be? As pessimistic as I was, I never imagined a total economic meltdown, nor the abject failure of both wars to achieve any kind of U.S. advantage in the middle east (or anywhere else), nor the unfathomable persistence, during the implosion of our society, of persistent conservative faith in the very policies that have brought us here, to the brink of the second great depression.
It truly was a presidency of historic import. Just not the good kind.
In the summer of 2008 we saw something very frightening coming – the grave possibility of four to eight more years of war, war, war, and tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts and, let’s be frank, very light intellectual efforts. These two prongs of the McCain plan–both expensive in terms of government solvency–are clearly incompatible over the long term. Wars are paid for, I’m told, with tax dollars. So if you want lots of one you need lots of the other. We all actually liked John McCain previous to the campaign (and now that it’s over). He was actually kind of bright and fairly moderate, even level-headed, until the Klieg lights went on. But then we had to watch him, live and in color, as we watched the likable George W. Bush of the 2000 campaign, morph into a generic Republican presidential candidate pandering to the religious right, the America Firsters, and the trickle down bubbleheads in Congress who can imagine absolutely nothing else the government can do to aid the country apart from cutting taxes for the very wealthy, whupping Islamist extremist ass, and doing as little else as possible.
And it looked like they were going to win it. They were going to win it on personality alone, and not just personality, but the personality of Sarah Palin the Painted Pit Bull. When this appeared to be the case, when the country fell over for an American Idol politician who, it appeared, was going to get by on her looks alone, I almost couldn’t deal with it. I almost went a little crazy. I mean, I’ve never been a big flag waver, but I do wish for the country to persist. I can’t even imagine wanting to vote for its likely implosion out of partisan spite – and yet that looked to be the way it was going for conservatives. Palin was “funny,” in that she had some clever put-downs of Obama in her campaign bag of tricks. She was “down to earth,” in that she was not an intellectual, not interested in the news or American foreign and domestic policy and what not – no, she was interested in…hockey. And old-time religion. And abstinence-only sex ed (sorry unwed 17-year-old highs school drop-out prego daughter – it’s a vision thing). And the “young earth” theory. Because science is offensive to God.
This was the woman who, should the cancer-addled, increasingly disoriented, 70-something McCain expire or become incapacitated during his term, would assume responsibility for a nation on the brink of economic and military disaster – responsibility for an economy which, should it go down, would bring the rest of the world down with it in a prolonged world-wide depression.
Turns out, of course, we had nothing to worry about. Things were so bad, so systemically broken and mismanaged at every level, from mortgage brokers to finance CEOs to government “regulators” at Justice and the SEC – so bad that everything fell apart well before inauguration day.
And fortunately, on inauguration day, instead of a mediocre, shape-shifting political stalwart with no new ideas standing there taking the oath because it was his “turn”, Barack Obama stood there, and took the oath that may have just saved the world.
So I’m hopeful. I voted for hope. That doesn’t mean things will get better any time soon. But it means that if they get worse, it won’t be for lack of brains or due to an ignorant willingness to let the “invisible hand” of the markets finish the job it started: namely, the decimation of the American and world economies through greed, malfeasance, incompetence and a criminal disregard for the safe management of other people’s money. Yeah, banks, I’m talking to you. Apparently you are the market, and you are also, ironically, the enemy of the market. You have destroyed yourselves, and are attempting to take us along for the ride.
But I’ll say this – you look at Barack, you listen to him, and you get one overarching impression: sure, the guy’s a politician – that’s who does politics since we’ve made it a business – but he’s also smart, capable, decisive, broad-minded, and fair. And he wants to beat this thing for the benefit of everybody, not just Wall Street.
Anyway, I’m back. And I’m pissed. But you know, I feel better already. Thanks for listening. Next time I’ll fill you in on what I’ve been up to.