We all know that 2008 was an historic year- one that will indelibly be etched into the history books. This is not only New Year’s Eve 2008, but this article marks my 200th entry on this blog. I am pleased to say that “The Alligator” has received more than 35,000 hits and has a few regular readers. So to commemorate both the end of 2008 and my 200th posting, I decided to take a trip back through the year by looking at the blog postings I wrote in 2008 since it would give me a sense of my own thinking’s evolution during the year. It has been such a consequential year due to war, geopolitics, the economy, the election- the list goes on; that perhaps going over my own words written at the time that each subject was news- will help provide a little objectivity on the year. If you are interested, as a companion to this article is yesterday’s article - The 10 Worst and 10 Best People of 2008
My post on December 28th, 2007 was about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. Look at Pakistan today- it is still in internal turmoil and it has ratcheted up the 61 year state of tension existing between India and Pakistan. Ms. Bhutto was a person of incredible character and who held great love for her troubled nation- and she paid a huge price. General Musharaf is gone and Bhutto’s widower , Asif Ali Zardari, is the now President. But clearly there is much that needs to be done to seal Ms. Bhutto’s legacy and for Pakistan to be the nation she envisioned.
In December of 2007 I wrote a piece about the presidency and experience. At the time Senators Clinton, McCain and other presidential hopefuls were raising the issue of Senator Barack Obama’s experience and I wrote this piece criticizing these arguments as bogus even though I was a supporter of John Edwards. I drew parallels between Mr. Obama’s experience and Abraham Lincoln’s experience. On January 20th 2009 President-elect Obama will take the oath of office on the same bible used by Lincoln at his first inauguration.
In late 2007 and early 2008 the nation was gearing up for a Clinton- Giuliani match up for President. The punditry was puffed up with smug “know it all” pride with the certainty of their predictions. Shouldn’t that cause us pause every time these blowhards bloviate and pontificate ad nauseum? Although I had been on the Edwards bandwagon at the end of 2007, in January 2008 I decided that I would vote for Barack Obama in the California primary. My reasons for deciding to cast my vote were outlined in a blog piece but primarily it was an editorial that I had read by Michael Kinsley in the New York Times that made me think. Mr. Kinsley’s article bears repeating here because of its relevance to why the President-elect was, I believe, ultimately successful.
“Americans say they want change, and think they want it, but there is room for doubt. Change is scary. What are the candidates actually promising? As often as not, it is protection from change. They will not muck around with your Social Security. They will make sure that you don’t lose your health insurance — and that you will always be able to keep your own doctor. The world is changing fast, but they will protect you from any dire effects. They won’t let the country get flooded with poisonous toys from China or workers from Mexico or (a Mike Huckabee offering) terrorists from Pakistan. A fence, that’s what we need. A fence to cower behind, to keep out change, or at least to slow it down.
There is nothing contemptible about a reluctance to change. Most of us have it pretty good in this country, and can’t be blamed for wanting things to stay that way. For that to happen, though, will require some wrenching changes. The list isn’t surprising, or really very long, compared with the list of our blessings. We need to use less energy and borrow less money. We need to fix our schools and reform our health care system. We need to end a stupid war.
Is this what people mean when they demand “change”? Are these things what the candidates have in mind when they promise to deliver it? If so, great. But all of these (except, maybe, ending the war) will require some changes that are unpleasant. We as a society have shown no tolerance for unpleasant changes, and politicians have shown no enthusiasm for trying to persuade us that they might be necessary. If all you want is happy changes, you really don’t want change at all.”
Thinking about all of the candidates and thinking about which ones might be visionary and able to lead the nation into change by demanding our sacrifice and challenge us to unite to make a better world- it seemed to me that Mr. Obama was the best choice.
At the time- the Republicans were debating whether the Iraqi War was worth the blood and treasure- all the Republican presidential hopefuls, save Ron Paul, said it was. Clearly they had a tin ear- the American people have rejected the Iraq War and the Iraqis want us out ASAP (see SOFA- Status of Forces Agreement- and shoes being hurled at POTUS). It seems the verdict is in- it has not been worth the cost of blood and treasure and many, including me believe that this was a war of choice, not a war of necessity.
In February 2008 I wrote my first piece about John McCain’s change of moral direction from a man of seeming integrity to a blatant panderer. This was well before the general election where he plumbed new depths of pandering. Most notably in that February piece was my anger about Senator McCain’s flip- flopping on the use of torture.
In March 2008 there were two particular items that raised my ire. First was when a group of heavy hitting supporters of Senator Clinton wrote a letter to Speaker Pelosi basically saying- you better get on board with our choice or you will see it taken out on our support for House members. Now in December 2008 nobody remembers that act of hubris. The other was a gem often repeated throughout the year- John McCain messing up on Shi’ia and Sunni and having to rely on Joe “Lapdog” Lieberman to correct him. Shi’ia, Sunni, Strong Economic Fundamentals- could this guy get anything right?
In April the moniker of ëlitist was uttered for the first time- thanks to the guns and religion comment by Obama that was distorted and played in a incessant loop on cable TV. The ëlitism issue remained a theme that would be played throughout November but would ultimately not succeed. I think after 8 years of disaster that was a direct result of Americans voting for a guy they want to have a beer with, they decided it might be a good idea to vote for the smartest guy in the room.
In May Barack Obama was accused of being an appeaser because he had the temerity to suggest that we use diplomacy with our enemies rather than bomb them to smithereens first. President Bush pushed the bounds of politics by talking politics at the Israeli Knesset. The tradition had been that politics stops at the American shores, but Mr. Bush can never resist an opportunity to politicize something. The ëlitist issue went into full swing as Hillary Clinton reinvented herself as a 21st century Annie Oakley rather than the Wellesley College and Yale Law school alum that she truly is.
In June, Mr. Obama became the presumptive nominee and Mrs. Clinton bowed out- although it was clear that her supporters needed some time to heal and her husband needed even more time to get over the defeat. Mrs Clinton gave every little girl the hope that their dreams could be limitless.
In July the item that attracted my attention was less political and more moral outrage. The Catholic Church paid out half a billion dollars to settle child abuse cases in Los Angeles alone. It appalled me and still does. Just think what good works the church could have done with that money rather than paying it out because of their shameful dirty little secret. I felt that the Catholic Church, rife with its corruption and cover-up, became synonymous with hypocrisy since it moralizes to the rest of the world and cannot keep its own house in order.
In August the big news was Barack Obama becoming the nominee of the Democratic Party- the first African American to do so. Could we be on the way to ACTUALLY electing an African American as President? At the same time Mr. McCain began playing his POW story like a violin for political purposes, completely obliterating any shred of integrity that the man may have once had and in the process demeaning his own legacy of heroism. Mr. McCain began his campaign of veiled racism and began to sharpen his teeth on portraying Obama as the unknown dangerous “other”.
September and October saw the campaign in full force with the most absurd person to crawl across the national stage- Sarah Palin with her jaw dropping stupidity and obsession with Hockey Moms, Joe Six Packs and Bill Ayers- the terrorist that Barack Obama “pals around with” while, as one McCain staffer said, she “looted Niemen Marcuses from coast to coast”. The financial markets collapsed, credit market dried up and we were on the fast track to economic disaster. Of course Mr. McCain’s fatal moment was when he said the now infamous line that the “fundamentals of our economy are strong” followed by the idiotic move of “suspending his campaign”- a campaign stunt that was purely pathetic. To paraphrase Jeremiah Wright, the deregulation that Mr. McCain and his economic advisor Phill Gramm advocated for years had finally come home to roost.
The General Election campaign could be explained simply- one of the best campaigns ever run (Obama) and one of the worst campaigns ever run (McCain). The results of that election: historic, momentous, hopeful – nothing more needs to be said. But with all the jubilation- there was little joy in California that night. Propostion 8 passed and in one instant the majority took away the right of a minority. It was the lowest point for the equality in this democracy since Jim Crowe. It was a slap in the face to legal precedence and Loving v. Virgina. On the very night where we shattered one barrier, we erected another.
The year ends with a nation engaged in two wars, scant international respect for our nation (see shoe hurling), the worst economy since the Depression, unemployment soaring and the Middle East tinderbox about to be ignited. No matter what your political ideology might be- we must all hope Barack Obama succeeds- because if he doesn’t we are all in trouble. With the brilliance that the President-elect has exhibited in his transition I have great hope; but the burdens that this man has on his shoulders is immense thanks to the ineptitude of the Bush years. Mr. Obama takes the reins at a time of unequaled in its challenges since Lincoln. Often parallels are drawn between the landscape that FDR inherited and what President-elect Obama is about to inherit, but FDR was not saddled with 2 wars simultaeous with an economic mess- the war came a bit later. Every day more of Bush’s disaster comes to light; January 20th cannot come soon enough- a lot can happen in 20 days.
Happy New Year.