As you have noticed, I have been unavailable, in Maine, this past week. It was a quiet time and I had the luxury of very limited media exposure. So I actually had time to think, take stock and put things in perspective.
2009 was an incredible year. I remember the excitement associated with the new Presidency of Barack Obama. The fervor, the optimism and the anticipation was like no other year in my life. Also, the political battling by the GOP, the infighting within the Democratic party and the compromises made by my liberal hopes somewhat altered the initial euphoria. This is called a dose of reality.
President Obama earned a solid B+ for his leadership for 2009. His avoidance of another depression, his cool presence in the face of destructive and obstructionist opposition and mostly, his success in passing (fingers are still crossed) an initial health care policy were all stupendous achievements. Yet, perfection is not on the table. The increased deficit necessary for the financial bailout is indeed worrisome, as are some of the health care reform measures left out of this bill. However, the President has taken the first steps in what could be a major rehabilitation of the United States.
What I have come to realize is that the excitement and positive energy of his campaign was a completely different animal that the raw realities of governing such a diverse nation, including the contentiousness of the GOP and the self-interest within the Democratic party. The structure of our government was designed to provide many checks and balances against too much executive power and, as we have witnessed this past year, that built-in safety mechanism can work against the purity of what the electorate expected.
So be it. Besides the major issues inherited by President Obama, plus the seriousness of the new problems, he has been faced with the weekly/monthly crises that popped up unexpectedly, i.e. the Cambridge affair between Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sergeant James Crowley, an incident rife with racial profiling and prejudice that nonetheless ended amicably with the “beer summit”, the honor and following controversy of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and the terrorist incident on the Delta flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, which showed a deep ineptitude of our intelligence agencies’ communication abilities. Just when he thought he could escape for two weeks vacation with his family, this terrorist event took place and the response of the pertinent agencies was disastrous. He looked exhausted from the health care fight, from the “no-good-available-choice” for Afghanistan strategy and from the constant battle with our financial industry to clean up their act — and payment schedules. Within 24 hours of his plane hitting Hawaiian soil for a much-deserved rest, the Delta plane headed for Detroit came a hair away from being blown up on Christmas day. Don’t get me wrong: he knew the risks and pressures associated with being President. He is a young, healthy man and he will deal with all of it. Yet, it would have been nice for the Obamas to have had maybe a carefree week. Not in the cards and he knows that and accepts the challenges.
All in all, this year has been a year of thrilling political events then tempered by a large dose of reality. I am grateful for President Obama’s leadership and stamina, yet frustrated at some of the compromises he had to make. This is not his problem: it is mine and I will deal with it. I thank President Obama for his firm leadership this past year and wish him continued strength and fortitude for the year ahead —– and a few moments of peace.