Something That's Wrong
August 2, 2001
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
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,
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?
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.