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Jan 20 2009

A Nation Breathes a Sigh of Relief

Obama-hopeYes, pride. Yes, hope. Yes, a feeling of giddy excitement. Yes, a powerful sense of the immense historical nature of the occasion.

But what I’m mostly feeling — what I think a lot of people are feeling — is an overwhelming sense of relief.

I feel like I’ve been holding my breath and gritting my teeth for the last eight years. I feel like I’ve been on a bus on a precarious mountain highway, being driven much too fast by a grinning idiot who’s not watching the road, who keeps looking back over his shoulder to chat and crack jokes with the passengers… most of whom, like me, have been gripping the seat in front of them with white knuckles, eyes either shut tight against the horror or wide open in frozen panic, as the bus careens ever closer to the cliff’s edge.

And I feel like the bus has finally, finally ground to a halt to change drivers.

And the driver who’s getting on looks like he takes his job seriously and knows how to drive.

I am under no illusions about Barack Obama. (Well, hardly any illusions.) I don’t think he’s the second coming of Christ, or even of Abraham Lincoln. My best hope is that he’ll be the second coming of FDR; my worst fear is that he’ll be a mutant hybrid of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

But the bus is no longer being driven by a reckless, delusional moron. The bus is being driven by someone who, whatever else you may think of him, obviously cares whether we live or die.

And I am breathing an immense, overjoyed sigh of relief.

Bye-bye, Bush. See you at the war crimes trial. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    Nan

    Well said. I’m not expecting miracles from Obama either. I’m just really, really happy that unlike his predecessor he seems to be in touch with reality.

  2. 2
    Agnes

    Was watching the inauguration very closely – and to his credit, he did say “non-believers”. That’s a relief too ;)

  3. 3
    LionDancer

    Well you have to admit that Bush brought both parties together. Brought the country and the world together. As far as I know he brought the whole fucking universe together.
    We
    All
    Hate
    Him
    And
    Want
    Him
    Gone.

  4. 4
    Cannonball Jones

    I can only imagine what clear-thinking Americans are feeling on seeing Bush exit stage left, it must be fantastic. I can’t muster that much genuine enthusiasm for Obama because he is just a politician, albeit an intelligent and articulate one. I’ll give him a chance to do something spectacular but at the very least he’ll be better than Dubya.
    Still, party on guys! I want to see all of rational America wake up with a hangover tomorrow :-)

  5. 5
    Jim

    Y’know, I seem to be the only person who actually WANTED the door to slam him in the ass on the way out. I hope it stung like a bitch.

  6. 6
    cthellis

    DON’T let? Whyever not? I’m thinking the fucker deserves a good spanking, at the VERY least.
    “George-ieeeeee! You’ve been a naughty, NAUGHTY President!”

  7. 7
    Christine

    I rather enjoyed the fact that the crowd started singing when Bush appeared. “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, GOOD-BYE.”
    Amen to that.
    And I, too, rather appreciated the fact that Obama mentioned non-believers. I’m willing to bet (and possible research at a later point) that no other president has done so in his inaugural address.

  8. 8
    Paul Crowley

    @Christine: do negative mentions count?
    Greta: As always, you put it so perfectly.

  9. 9
    yogurtbacteria

    Personally, I find particular pleasure in thinking of it this way: whether he turns out excellent or not, The President of the United States is now officially more qualified to do the job than I am. And that’s a relief.

  10. 10
    will willis

    When Obama mentioned non-believers, i sighed a huge sigh of relief. I knew that if he hadn’t, I would start this administration feeling as left out as I felt at the onset of the last one. Especially after Warren’s extremely divisive speech, i needed some confirmation that this president, the man I had voted for in november (as well as last february) considered me to be as american as the rest of my nation. That being said, I’ve often claimed that Barack is a closet agnostic. When you read his books and the way he writes of his mother’s quest for truth, and you dissect the ways he refers to his membership in church (always about the church’s role in his community, not god’s role in his heart), it seems plain to me (if no one else) that Michelle wakes him up on sunday mornings.
    p.s. greta: i’m a ‘long time, first time’, i always enjoy your writings, keep up the good work.

  11. 11
    DSimon

    I was well before voting age during the entire time Clinton was president. Besides Bush, he’s the only president I remember ever seeing on TV, and the comparison isn’t real favorable to Mr. 43. Other than DADT, and of course the scandal, didn’t Clinton do a good job? I honestly don’t know that much about the guy…
    And, from what I’ve heard of Jimmy Carter, it seems like he’s mostly remembered for a starry-eyed if somewhat ineffectual idealist.
    So, when you say your worst fear is that Obama is a combination of the two… that doesn’t seem all that bad a “worst fear” to me. Is my ignorance shading this conclusion incorrectly, or are you really that optimistic?

  12. 12
    Eclectic

    When I heard that Cheney would show up at the inauguration in a wheelchair, I amused my friends by saying “I wish he’d show up in a coffin.”
    I still think it’s a searing indictment of the U.S. political system (including the electorate) that Bush wasn’t impeached. At an absolute minimum.

  13. 13
    Greta Christina

    DSimon: Compared to W., Clinton did do a good job. Compared to W., a small russet potato would have done a good job. But I have major problems with the Clinton Presidency. NAFTA, the Welfare reform act, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act… all Clinton. Clinton talked a good talk, but he was pretty much never willing to take hard principled stands. He disappointed progressives time and time again, and a lot of us felt very sold out by him.
    As for Carter: “ineffectual” is, IMO, a pretty damning adjective for a President.
    Does that answer your question?

  14. 14
    SueW

    Regarding the mention of”non believers”…its a big improvement over Bush declaring in ’96 that Wicca was not a religion and that he would close the doors of all churches of Satan…” Compared to that- its all up.
    We are not going to get rid of Xtian priviledge TODAY. Lets get back on our feet and live our lives.
    BTW I like the bus analogy…I was beginning to think that it lacked brakes and the road was ending all too soon.

  15. 15
    Benjamin

    Eclectic: To his credit, Rep. Dennis Kuccinich did introduce articles of impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives, but they were referred to committee where they died a quiet death.
    Greta: No no no, dear. It’s don’t let the SHOE hit you in the rear end on the way out. If this ex-president has given us nothing else, it is a new way of expressing contempt.

  16. 16
    Janet

    Yes.

  17. 17
    David Harmon

    Clinton talked a good talk, but he was pretty much never willing to take hard principled stands.
    My impression at the time was that he was first getting spun to a halt, then steamrollered, by the Gingrich-led cabal.

  18. 18
    Jon Berger

    He did mention non-believers, and it was nice that he made the gesture. But just to prove the adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, I watched the inauguration address two different times in the company of two different Buddhists, and both of them were sincerely incensed that their religion was slighted. I thought the emphasis on returning science to its proper place in policy making was significantly more hopeful.
    Joke flying around the lawyer mailing lists today: how many former editors of the Harvard Law Review does it take to get the Presidential oath of office right? Answer: more than two, apparently.

  19. 19
    nina hartley

    Good as always, Greta.
    Jon, I noticed that Obama didn’t mention Buddhists, either. I think, “. . .and Buddhists and non-believers” would have been good. Great joke about Presidential oaths, btw.
    But just to hear “non believers” in the address was pretty great. And that bit about science being restored to its rightful place was especially good.
    It must have galled Bush to have to sit with a smile on his face while Obama nailed the outgoing administration so roundly, she said, smiling.
    It’s nice to know that Bush, Cheney, Rummy, et al, won’t be able to travel much for fear of being arrested for war crimes. You know, they got Pinochet so there’s hope for us yet.

  20. 20
    Valhar2000

    That bus metaphor is excellent, trully brilliant! It really captures the feeling of watching Dubya’s administrationg at work.
    I don’t live in the US, so I was not in the bus, but I did get the feelings of “I can’t beleive that idiot still hasn’t crashed!” and “He’s going to kill somebody! Where the hell ar ethe traffic cops when you need them?”.

  21. 21
    teammarty

    Actually, I look at a cross between Carter (who was a far better Pres. that given credit for and the best EX-Pres. since JQ Adams) and Clinton as a best hope. But it’s still better thatn having Palin take over in 2011.

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