It seems likely that, by the time the next edition of The Cheap Seats hits the street, we will have elected Barack Obama as the forty-fourth President of the United States. While I believe that the margin of victory will be less than what some in the mainstream media have predicted, it appears that victory for the Democratic nominee is the likely result.
I would like, therefore, to take this opportunity to offer a few comments about that likely situation, and, as you can tell by now, I’d like to offer those comments in a more personal style than I usually employ. The use of the first person singular by a columnist is, in my view, both a crutch and an unnecessary vanity, but – for today – it seems appropriate to disregard that self-imposed limitation.
The first thing to say about an Obama Presidency involves honor. I am an American. I feel extremely proud and blessed to be an American, and I don’t subscribe to the notion that America has been diminished in the last eight years because certain media outlets and foreign powers tell me that this is so.
I believe that there are certain obligations, obligations of honor rather than legal obligations, that go along with being an American. One of the most important of these is to remember that the democracy we cherish works, in no small part, because the minority can respect the necessity to accede to the will of the majority.
Note that I have used the term “respect”, not “agree with”. That’s important, at least to me. Regular readers of this column know that I do not agree with many of the policies and positions that Senator Obama adheres to. I suspect that I will continue to disagree with many of those policies and positions if he makes residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, beginning in 2009.
That said, he will be my President. He will be my Commander and Chief. He will be the leader of the nation that I am so enormously proud to be a part of and, if I should ever meet the man (which doesn’t seem likely) I would address him with the respect (that word again) that a man who has been elected by his citizen peers to the highest office in this remarkable land deserves. The British phrase, albeit one that has had virtually no meaning in America for the last half century, is “the loyal opposition”.
Before my conservative friends choke on their coffee, that does not mean that I will refrain from critiquing our new President’s policies. I remain opposed to setting a time table to withdraw from Iraq. I still believe that it’s naïve and somewhat dangerous to attempt to negotiate with tyrannical thugs. As a scientist, I will remain unconvinced (absent some compelling data to the contrary) that human activities have been, or are capable of, influencing the climate. I will continue to oppose moving further into the realm of socialized medicine. I could go on, but I’m sure that you get the point.
Right about now, my liberal readers are rolling their eyes and muttering, “oh, so nothing really changes, Trzupek will just repackage the same crap with a bigger bow around it and try to make us believe that it smells better.” (A nice turn of the phrase that, if I do say so myself. Whomever plagiarizes it, feel free to give me credit).
In any case, there is a difference, and perhaps it’s a fine point that exists only in a skull that is so full of old-fashioned notions as mine. The difference is that the President of the United States stands for something. He is larger than his person, larger than his office, larger than any degree of military, political or economic power that he might command.
The President of the United States represents the continued success of this great experiment in government: of, for and by the people. He is a shining symbol of the independence, determination, courage and “can do” spirit of his fellow citizens. When the President of the United States arrives in a foreign country that is oppressed by tyranny, he carries with him the unspoken message that liberty is not an extravagance, it’s a right. The cameras may focus on angry protestors, gleefully burning the Stars and Stripes, but – as anyone who has spent time in such countries can tell you – there are many more people quietly watching who feel a sudden swell of hope, that their children, just perhaps, might take a step closer towards freedom so long as the light of liberty still shines on our shores.
And so, my friends, there will be no personal attacks on a President Obama in my column while he holds office. I despised the personal attacks on George W. Bush over the last eight years, and I despised the personal attacks on Bill Clinton for the eight years before that. As I understand it, the rule in the military is that you salute the rank, not the person. This principle should, in my judgment, be applied to the Chief Executive of our nation.
There are a few other positions for which I would accord that degree of respect. The Pope, certainly. Anyone who honorably serves or has honorably served in defense of this country, without question. There are others.
I am certain that I will be virtually (if not absolutely) alone in following this principle. The Bill O’Reillys of the world will fire off personal attacks against a President Obama every bit as obnoxious as the Keith Olbermanns of the world have blasted in President Bush’s direction. I lament the fact that it have come to this, that decorum matters not a whit to people in search of ratings and who believe that self-righteousness excuses every sin of propriety, but such is the world that we live in.
And, of course, there are persons for whom, in my judgment, the office does not afford the same kind of protection. I have never attempted to hide my contempt for Governor Rod Blagojevich and, judging by the 13% approval rating he recently earned (and so richly deserved) it would appear the vast majority of my fellow citizens in the Prairie State have come around to my way of thinking. But, in the case of a President Obama, there is a principle at play that is larger than me and larger than him.
I sincerely “hope” (the word was bound to creep in) that I am wrong and the majority of my fellow citizens are correct, if we are to have a President Obama. I hope that 2012 will see a secure nation, a prosperous nation and a nation that has done more to guarantee our children’s futures. I hope that, in 2012, more of the world will know and enjoy the fruits of liberty.
I do not hope for a President Obama to fail, in other words. I am an American. Americans want their leaders to succeed. They want their nation to succeed. Like my siblings, I learned about honor at the knee of my father. He taught us one simple lesson above all others: that honor matters. That includes being respectful to the leader of the greatest nation on the globe, even when you disagree with him. You deal with it. Honor demands no less.
God Bless America,