Myself, I’m all up for an American Jewish socialist as president. It’d be a second crack at making America exceptional again. President Barack Hussein Obama had his crack at American Exceptionalism and blew it. Unfortunately, he never realized the significance, the power of his moment.
When Obama came forward in our lives as president, we needed greatness from him. He had the oratory gift for it; he had the moment ripe for the telling and, out of the telling of the story, historical transcendence to be had. Redemption that Isis and al Qaeda knaves would have choked on, maybe, to death on.
Upon his election, Obama was bursting with potential.
Now, with time having passed along into the final stretch of Barack Obama’s presidency, as the deliverance of his final State of the Union Address approached, I couldn’t help recall anticipating his very first Inauguration Address after he had been elected in November of 2008. I remember thinking three months to go and time can’t move fast enough. Barack, you’ve got to do whatever it takes to refortify us when you get there. My brother, just the sight of you, a black man with an Islamic name, at this time in history is, to me, the embodiment of a phoenix rising from the ashes. Hallelujah. Let the spirit of America burst forth from your destiny for all the rest of time to be in awe of. Praise the Lord; where else in the universe was there anything of such historical magnificence happening?
Waiting for President-elect Obama, the potential for our American Story just took my breath away: Obama, “we can do it yes we can.”
But then, in the fast and furiousness of it all, within a couple of weeks of his taking charge, he, inscrutably, turned his back on the yet to be written, final chapter of the Bush-Cheney years in the American story. He left it blank. How is it a Harvard-trained constitutional lawyer like himself, finding himself in the position of chief executive, thus, chief executioner of the laws of the land, jumped the tracks on his rigorous legal training of looking back and reviewing and, somehow, got stuck on to the opposite track of being forward looking and forgetting, thus, looking past high crimes and misdemeanors — like crimes against humanity and bank robbery and flagrant constitutional rights trampling that Bush and Cheney brought on us?
Why is it that Obama didn’t tap into himself? It was his moment to be had. A mystery for history, or will history’s verdict be, in the big picture, Obama didn’t have the guts or moral imagination to write the script that needed to be written for the sake of making our American Story really, really great again.
Mr. President, if only you had brought voice to where we were and how we got there: How you got there, how an African American with the middle name Hussein got there. It was as if you were afraid to remind folks of what you meant to American history. You completely stopped talking about the audacity of hope that made you, as if trying to act as if you were just like anyone else. You left the extraordinary out of your motif: somehow, inexplicably, you forgot how, out of the intensity of the moment, you became one extraordinary moment in American history.
Obama why would you have ever downplayed such a great story as yourself?
But, unbelievably, above even that, above all else, if only you had allowed the rule of law to bring voice to how “we shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope on earth” — our American story. Abe said it all.
Obama, if only you realized Abraham Lincoln was there for you to channel to greatness.
If only you had the heart and will to have done what needed to be done. The Bush Cheney administration needed, first and foremost, to be held accountable; they needed to be exposed and digested. That was on you. You didn’t need Congress for that.
Obama, if only you had deployed the power of that moment, your moment, it would have kicked the legs right out from under the Republican Party in Congress, just like what happened to them after Watergate in 1976. You would have never lost Congress; you’d be sporting a super-majority in both Houses today and would have been able to have done whatever you liked.
But you let your moment slip. You got yourself jiu jitsued: politically put on your back, with Democrats losing the House and a filibuster proof Senate in 2010. Thus, from yes we can to no we can’t, ad nauseam, we went.
Mr. President, getting a budget passed to carry us until next year barely constitutes bragging rights as you attempted in your last State of the Union. Just how pathetic is that as an accomplishment? After achieving health care reform the way you did all your political oomph was spent, we’ve barely gone anywhere politically. Barely have we separated ourselves from the Bush-Cheney legacy. It haunts. Gitmo still persists. The Middle East is worse than ever.
And now we approach the event horizon of a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. If we get sucked in by them, with a Republican Congress, who knows where and what shape we’ll be left? Just look how badly warped we remain from the Bush-Cheney years.
Mr. President, truth be told, the State of the Union, today, is about as precarious as it has ever been. I fear for my granddaughters.
The only hope I see out there is Bernie Sanders. He seems to be able to tell the American Story a lot better than you, President Obama. He’d be able to turn the page. He’d be able to take us on a great and worthy journey. He’ll make for one great American story: How an American Jewish socialist saved capitalism and maybe even Israel from itself.
We can do it, yes we can, Bernie. And you will. That’s “my prayer in the wind.”
Tim O’Leary is a longtime Homer resident and, as he calls himself, a natural-born anthropologist.