Democratic Underground

The Something That's Wrong
August 2, 2001
by Sam Stellar

I don't think anything could be more boring than the quiet coming from Washington nowadays (yes, Iím completely avoiding the Chandra calamity). The only break, sadly, comes via the occasional blurb from the head cowboy; that not quite a man, not quite a child, that sulks through the corridors of our nations highest office.

It's sad really. Not in the mournful way associated with the word, but more like the depressing way in which one views a fatal car accident. No, no hyperbole there; it's that grave.

Something very important and precious was stolen by the town rube last election day. He gropes it clumsily, while those around him sway their heads in disbelief - he has no idea, they are saying. Or rather, we are saying.

I miss Bill Clinton. Can you even say that in America? I miss him the way one misses the thrill of Christmas morning, the crack of the bat on opening day, the whiff of all that newness the first day of school. It's the way things were that I think I miss the most; a sense that someone smart and capable was in charge. The intellectual curiosity and capability of the person called President. And for whatever the reason, despite all the prodding, pushing, and shoving from those that claim the ear of the common man, I can't get over the feeling I had when I first saw him as a victor, that night in November, once all the returns had come in; I matter now. He knows that. He knows that I matter.

The feeling I get when I see the current President? I feel covered in backwash, drenched in old bath water. Ignored, and worse - smarter.

We are a complex people, Americans. Puritan in public yet more depraved in private than even the Romans could have imagined. We're capable of the kindest gesture or the grandest cruelty. We propose marriage to each other, murder each other, exchange pleasantries and prejudices sometimes in the same instant. All of what happens in those folds of feeling we reveal only to our spouse, our pastor or our jailer. This is the complicated nature of the modern American; we are living, breathing contradictions that criss-cross one another perpetually, forming the netting in which our national character is captured.

Bush, imprisoned by a life of instant pleasures, cursed with the disposition of an infant, and so terrible, terribly small, seems completely unaware that we are all these things and more. Thus, his standing in the liberal strata is of a man unaware of humanity; its depth, its contradictions, or its reasons.

For all the sourness tha's attached to his name now, Clinton was a President fully aware of both his and our humanity. So aware of it was he that, arguably, it hurt the aspirations of his Vice President.

In his absence is a gaping hole, where that understanding that a President is supposed to have should be; that limitless empathy, the sense that one could bring to him the narratives of their worst personal trials and hear calmly, understandingly, "I know."

And what does Bush know? The mechanics of oil refinery. And what else? Does he have it in him to inspire us the way Kennedy did in his inaugural address? Could he comfort the nation like Clinton did after the Oklahoma City bombing? Could he even urge us to join him in defending our interests on foreign soil, as did his father? In essence what I am asking is: does W. have that zeitgeist trait that all of our past Presidents have had; that innate duality to be both our leader and lender, manager and acquaintance?

No.

What makes me say that? Look at him.

May I be so bold as to speak on behalf of every liberal in America? It is deeply disturbing to live in an era where your car, cell phone, even your coffee maker communicates with more clarity and succinctness than your President. This is why we feel, whenever we look at him, that something is wrong.

 
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