At this point, Barack Obama has been president for about nine hours. Surprisingly, everything is not all better just yet.
That’s because regardless of one’s political leanings, religious beliefs, or philosophical affiliations, only a deluded optimist would insist that Obama has inherited a good situation. The last eight years have been a nonstop, unending, it-can’t-get-any-worse-but-it-has cavalcade of disaster.
I don’t mean that the Bush years were just bad for Hispanics. It’s true that, in the last decade, Latinos have become the top victims of hate crimes based on ethnicity. It’s also true that the economic wipeout has affected the lower classes more, of which Hispanics make up a disproportionate percentage. And it’s ultimately true that Latinos are currently being blamed for everything from the increase in petty crime to the housing crisis to the country’s apparent moral collapse (this latter disaster seems to happen every few years).
But we do not hold a monopoly on the suffering.
The past decade has been catastrophic for whites, blacks, people of Middle Eastern descent, intellectuals, scientists, union laborers, New Orleans residents, civil libertarians, gays, moderate conservatives, atheists, middle-class office managers, stay-at-home moms, rugged farmers, diabetic stock brokers, one-eyed dentists, and “Battlestar Galactica” freaks – in short, just about everybody in America.
As I say goodbye to President Bush, I’m trying to imagine any administration in history having even one of the following as its legacy:
- Two botched wars (including the worst foreign-policy decision since Vietnam)
- Two recessions (including the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression)
- The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history (the mastermind behind it is still at large)
- The most inept handling of a major natural disaster in U.S. history (we basically lost the city of New Orleans to mud and water moccasins)
- An unprecedented, massive backsliding of civil rights (historians will be amazed that we put up with this fear-mongering)
- Overt, criminal corruption at the Justice Department (at least in the same league as Watergate)
- An incredibly tarnished image abroad (and yes, it does matter if we want to claim that we lead the free world).
That’s just the big stuff. I know I’m forgetting a lot.
Any one of those top three items is sufficient to end discussion about Bush’s competence. Put them all together and pile on other major catastrophes and some lesser disasters and… well… really, I’m still trying to comprehend how all this happened under the watch of one guy. This much chaos usually gets spread around over a half-century or so.
Some commentators say that Bush’s reputation will be repaired as time goes on. I agree, in the sense that it can’t get any worse… then again, I’ve said that phrase many times over the last eight years.
Will Obama be a fresh start and the beginning of a bold new era of greatness and American strength? Or will he be our second dud in a row?
I’m optimistic that he will be a good president, even if I’ve never quite bought into the whole “Obama as Lincoln/Roosevelt/savior” thing. Hell, I’ll settle for basic competency at this point.
In any case, I join all Americans – Hispanic, white, black, Asian, and purple – in wishing the new president well. Hopefully, we can get back on track.
It’s not like we’re due for some good news or anything.