I’m sure some of you have probably read David Brooks’ article in the New York Times entitled “I Miss Barack Obama,” and it likely angered you to hear a purported conservative show respect for a liberal President who has self-consciously striven to “fundamentally transform America.”
But, to be fair, I think the point Brooks is making should be considered. Especially as it relates to the ugly nature of the current primaries and the dismal lack of variety we have to choose from even in the crowded GOP field. In Brooks’ own words:
. . . Over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.
The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.
So Brooks will miss nothing of Obama’s policies. Rather, it is Obama’s standard of character that Brooks is already missing. And honestly, it’s a sad, and sadly true, reality that Obama’s public persona and private behavior have made him look sane, respectable, and honorable compared to most of the people currently running for president. I would contend that Brooks’ article could be retitled “I Really Despise Most Everyone Currently Running for President,” without changing much of its substance.
Furthermore, George W. Bush’s presidency was largely scandal free as well. The shock factor of Brooks’ article would have been greatly attenuated if it had been titled, “I Miss George W. Bush.” The real point here has a lot more to do with psychology than politics.
Remember when Obama became president, and that goofy George W. “Miss Me Yet?” meme surged into the public arena? And that’s just the way it has been, is, and will be. If we survive the next president’s term, it’s likely he’ll also be re-elected or missed. It’s just human nature to hold on to what we know, even if it sucks. It’s a tenet of human psychology at least as old as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who opined that the uncertainty of the afterlife “makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of.”
But there’s another more terrifying prospect involved in all of this, that is, we might end up missing Obama for an entirely different reason than the oft-touted escalation of ugliness in politics: Obama just might be finishing up the presidential term that caps off the Golden Age of the United States. As far as I can see, the United States is precariously balanced on the precipice of disaster. Who knows what the straw will be that breaks the Eagle’s back, but it is almost certain not to fall before Obama and his legacy are safely withdrawn from the White House. In that sense, it might just be a matter of time before we all miss “the good old days” when Obama sat in the Oval Office.
In other words, I do not envy the next American president. He’s likely to be as reviled as the largely innocent Herbert Hoover. The next president is basically playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun.