Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I know this isn't a political blog, but what is more important than what we all witnessed today?

Truly historic.

Not only has America sworn in her first black president ... displaying, for the world to see, how far along we have come as a country. It would be naive to say that race wasn't an issue, but I'd like to think that people looked past color to see a truly great candidate. A smart, ambitious and visionary man who will do what he can to turn our nation around.

I've never been one to say I'm ashamed to be an American. Whenever outside the country, I state my nationality with pride, (And punch in the mouth any American that pretends to be Canadian. Savage, savage, people.) However, I have not been proud of our government over the last 8 years.

Sure, Bush has not been a COMPLETE failure. As he has stated, there were no more terrorist attacks on American soil after 9/11. It could be argued that he kept us safe. And unlike my beloved Bill, he was never caught with his pants down.

Unfortunately, his domestic policies have been a mess. The economic stimulus and bailout programs he signed were unsuccessful and not well-planned. The damage he has done to environmental policies have been shameful, especially what he has tried to get passed in the last few months of his office. (Such as the government no longer needing to consult with outside scientists to gauge the environmental impacts of new industrial plants.)

"No child left behind" has led to ill-prepared children advancing through school. Americans' education has long been a punchline around the world, he's only made it worse. Even Poland points and laughs at our children. And they're Polish.

But here it is, January 20th ... and as of 12:01 today, for the first time in 8 years, I feel truly represented by my government.

Some words of advice to Barack:
Keep your pants on. Continue using the English language correctly. Keep your daughters out of the bars til they're 21. Don't lie about why you want to go to war. If some one organizes an attack on our soil, don't outsource his capture. Keep religion out of the lawmaking process. Don't become a corporate puppet. And most importantly, Don't let Biden go hunting drunk.

Thank you, President Obama, and good luck.


Jamie said...

Dear "Sten" -

You say “it could be argued” that President Bush kept us safe. I consider this statement akin to saying it could be argued that beer contains alcohol. The threat against this country was severe and real while our 43rd president was in office—we were all targets. Emblazoned by their first “direct hit” in 2001, Al Qaeda salivated at delivering their next knockout blow against our nation. And believe me innumerable future attacks were in the works even before that historical day when our illusion of invincibility was shattered. It’s na├»ve to think that because those blows were never delivered, they therefore weren’t being planned every bit as meticulously and ruthlessly as 9/11. To say “it could be argued” that our president was responsible for that next punch never landing is an understatement so severe it borders on insult.

The global alliances formed by the recently-departed administration directly resulted in the thwarting of potential terrorist attacks. The inception of The Patriot Act (the admin’s first slam dunk against terror way back in October of 2001) severed the possibility of such horrific recurrences even closer to the root, squashing such attacks in their most embryonic stages.

Attacks were prevented. That information is available for public consumption. However …

“It could be argued” that TV cameras don’t rush to the seen when a building doesn’t get bombed and crumble to the ground. “It could be argued” that newspapers don’t write about trans-Atlantic flights that don’t get blow up on route to their destination. “It could be argued” that reporters’ cell phones don’t start manically vibrating when millions of Americans safely arrive at work one day.

This is one of the reasons I deeply respect and deeply thank our ex-president. There is no glory in preventing terror attacks. It’s something that he and his administration deemed critical, and it was they who set the big wheels in motion. I only hope they continue to spin under our new administration. They certainly weren’t spinning under president number 42, and they should have been.

Sten said...

Dear "Jamie" -

YOU SAY The Patriot Act was a "slam dunk."
I agree, a slum dunk on the face of our civil rights. Bush preyed on the fears of our nation to put forth legislation that compromised our freedoms as Americans. So much so, that Congress had to step in and try to pass legislations with names such as "Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act" and the "Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act" to help ease citizens from under a tyrannical thumb. Even Republicans agreed it was an infringement on civil privacies.
Not to mention the act promoted ethnic profiling and prejudice.

Jared said...

Wow, only one catastrophic terrorist attack during his administration. Can we give the man a third term please?

How low do your expectations have to be when you give a president credit for that? I mean I could see getting excited about 8 years without terrorist attacks if we lived in ISRAEL, but it's kind of the status quo here.

You hate on Clinton but by your logic he was worth your thanks and respect too, since there were no domestic terrorist attacks for the 8 years following the first WTC bombing.

I have to say though the hype surrounding obama is over the top. When he got on stage today you'd think that we were witnessing the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Given the current climate and the expectations surrounding him, I believe that failure is literally inevitable.

Jared said...

I realize that the OKC bombing happened after the first WTC, but let's be honest the "war on terror" means the war on radical islam, period.

Sunshine said...

"Given the current climate and the expectations surrounding him, I believe that failure is literally inevitable."

Jared -
I'll agree that the hype is a bit much. However, the excitement today was more about what's he's already achieved by just being elected.

As far as his inevitable failure is concerned, a nation can only ever be as strong as its citizens. This being said, this is the first time in my (albeit short) life that I have ever seen such a large amount of people excited and moved by one of their leaders. This "hype" you speak of is because a majority of the American people actually trust that their president has their best interests in mind, and that trust is the key to his success in office.

However, to believe that Obama could create a perfect and flawless government in 4-8 years is almost as ludicrous and short-sighted as believing Bush to be the Savior of American Freedom. Obama is only human and cannot be expected to fix every problem, but he has never promised that and I do not believe people expect him to.

The hope I have for Obama and his administrations is that he might be able steer this country off the self-destructive path that it has be going down and reestablish the precedent for politicians to be service providers instead of glory seekers.

Jamie said...

Howdy Jared –

Um … President Bush deserves credit for preventing terrorist attacks because we have hard evidence that his executive moves prevented the killing of Americans by terrorists. The data’s out there—I’m not making this up. I don’t really understand why this seems to be a controversial point, but whatevs.

As for my knock on Bill’s terror-fighting efforts, the attack on the USS Cole, the bombing of our embassy in Kenya, the 2001 attack on the Trade Centers—these (among others) were all attacks that we could have gathered intelligence on and ultimately prevented, if our administration during the 1990’s had chosen to go that route. Unless you want to nitpick what “domestic” means, these are all instances of Al Qaeda killing Americans on U.S. territory. Clinton should have implemented a Patriot-like Act after the first attack on the Trade Centers, but nope. Which brings me to my next point …

Sten –

The Patriot Act broke down walls between intelligence and law enforcement—it brokered information sharing. Before we had it, we weren’t able to effectively monitor terrorists while they were in our country—even when they were talking to each other on the phone about killing us. After we had it, we were able to. The Patriot Act wasn’t instated so that our government could rob people of their liberties or so that airport security agents could single out minorities for luggage inspection. It was put in place so that we could identify and thwart terror suspects. It gives our intelligence community the authority that it requires in order to fight the war that’s been waged against us. And by the way … does anyone give a damn that it’s worked?? Does any one care that it’s helped us catch terrorists and save lives??

Dori & Viv said...

Kudos to sten for crafting an entry that is provoking so much dialogue. Regardless of the events of the last 8 years, I'm hopeful that this passion shown here has unlimited potential for good and change in the next 8.

Jared Hamburger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jared said...

Again Jamie, if Clinton failed to respond appropriately than Bush did too. Bush was briefed on the threat of Al Qaeda as soon as he took office, if it was so clear that we needed to overhaul our national security why wouldn't he make it his first order of business to push for Patriot Act type legislation? Why would he wait 6 months after which it was already too late? Perhaps he wouldn't have been able to prevent 9/11, but he didn't even make it a priority until after we were attacked.

rob said...

jamie, i voted for bush too. but that said, you really need to give up defending this guy. he doesn't deserve it.

should we give him credit for preventing more terrorist attacks? yeah sure, why not. great job, bush.

but what we compromised for that "security" is completely unacceptable. "those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither". most republicans would agree with this - if they weren't so preoccupied with defending bush (and that god-awful "PATRIOT" act).

regardless, terrorism should be the LEAST of our worries right now.

if the general public actually understood the depth of the current economic crisis, how precariously the american economy is hanging over the edge, and how catastrophic and cataclysmic an economic collapse would be, the fear of that collapse would be so overwhelming that it would take no less than an atomic weapon buried in u.s. soil -- with usama bin laden himself holding the trigger -- for terrorism to even show up as a blip on the "fear" radar.

the economy is where bush failed us the most. unfortunately he doesn't understand this fact at all, because as he so blithely puts it, "i didn't get an A in economics 101...".

did he get an A in any of his classes??

well, maybe if he HAD gotten an A in econ 101, he'd be able to see the black hole he helped steer the u.s. economy into. and perhaps then he'd put his "legacy" into a different perspective, and realize that, years from now, nobody's gonna care that he kept america "safe" from terrorists when everyone can see in hindsight the economic havoc he helped to create.

i voted for barack. and i only hope he serves this country better. so far, i'm optimistic. desperate times lie ahead, and this country will soon sorely need barack's exceptional leadership strength to hold us together and see us thru.

Jamie said...

Jared –

Fine point. But Clinton had 8 years in which he failed to act. Bush had eight months during which he was charged with erecting an administration and making critical cabinet appointments. Like I said, I see where you’re coming from BUT in my opinion, a brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S." contains about as much useful (read: actionable) information (read: hard ground-level intelligence) as a report baring the title "Aspiring Singers Determined to Audition for American Idol". Bush didn’t act until after 9/11, true. But Clinton didn’t act AT ALL, even after the first Trade Center attack in 1993, where our enemies’ ambitions were identical. I’m not trying to get into an argument over who the better president was; just who was more effective at and committed to fighting terror, since the threat was equal during both presidencies.

Hello Rob –

Not to get confrontational here, but I’ll be the judge of who’s earned my defending and who hasn’t. For someone to tell me that I'm somehow wrong in my personal choice of who to stand by politically, it makes me feel that my opinion is not being respected. I don’t plan on directing you as to what you “really need” to do regarding your political interpretations, sir.

Onto your next point, which I can only scratch the surface of: Bush does not deserve blame for the current economic situation at all. The poison that corrupted our financial lending system was brewed by Washington under the watches of FDR and Clinton. (I’m sorry to leave this point incomplete, but I’m leaving work now and there’s just too much to type—perhaps tomorrow!)

I will say this though: The ball was NOT dropped by Bush—that’s actually not even an argument I’ve heard. He (and other conservatives) warned about the coming meltdown of these extra-governmental housing arms, but for social reasons, to really deal with the problem would have been politically unpopular. This is a big issue that some of the finest minds on Wall Street don’t even understand, but after the reading I’ve done, I’ve made up my mind where the blame really ought to lie.

Mohawk said...

I feel bad that the president had to be seen on his last day, being wheeled away in a wheelchair.

Zee said...

I'll tell ya what's truly historic- for the first time since Jackie-O we have a do-able first lady! YOWZA!

rob said...


i'm conservative and i'm right there with you about FDR and clinton contributing to our current economic plight. and i'd say that most of the blame should be directed toward the federal reserve, not the executive office. but to say that bush (or reagan, or nixon) is somehow absolved of blame is to let your "republicanism" distort your view.

as you put it, "but for social reasons, to really deal with the problem would have been politically unpopular."

if bush truly understood the problem, and if he were a true conservative leader, he would have dealt with the problem, regardless of its "unpopularity". i mean, c'mon, his popularity ratings were the lowest in history -- i don't think "being liked" was high on his list of concerns.

and so, whether he actively contributed to our economic decline (which he did), or whether he passively allowed our economic demise to pass (which he also did), either way, this is where he failed us the most.

and if this is "actually not even an argument you've heard", then you simply haven't been listening to anyone other than your fellow republicans. just like bush.

the economy can be debated at length and i don't intend to do that here. i posted a link on facebook espousing the ideals of ayn rand's "atlas shrugged" and i've been defending it for over 70-some comments. i don't feel like having the same debate here.

tho, if you are a conservative, and you've read "atlas shrugged", then i'm sure you agree with it, and so we probably don't differ that much in our economic views anyway.

but on bush, i'm sorry man. he was a failure. open your eyes and ears and breathe in some reality.

Jamie said...

Rob – Now you’re just being inflammatory, my man. I’m not saturated by the propaganda of the republicans around me, because … well, frankly I don’t know any republicans—I live in New York City. My opinions are formed by my interpretations of historical as well as current events, just like yours I’m guessing.

There’s no need to apologize, but it simply is not a given that W was a failure, as you say. I can’t agree with you. American conservatives have been overwhelmed (in a good way) by what this president has done—THEY would not agree with you. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that no president has ever done more to further conservative ideals. He fought against human embryo testing, an initially unpopular move, but was completely vindicated in his decision by the scientific breakthrough that followed. He brokered free-trade agreements with 17 new nations, more than any president that came before him. He won Operation Iraqi Freedom after Dems everywhere desperately declared it “un-winnable”. He successfully prevented innumerable terror attacks when the threat was at its worst. (You already know I dig The Patriot Act, so I won’t bring that up again … even though I sort of just did.) Anywho, these are all happenings that define the Bush presidency as “successful.”

Was he perfect? No, of course not. The man showed his human side, no doubt. But to say he was a failure just ain’t right. That’s another thing; when you say Bush was a failure, I’m feeling like you consider that a hard fact, rather than an opinion--it is your opinion, and I won’t try to tell you that you can’t hold it. Just don’t agree with ya.

I do agree with you whole-heartedly on one thing though. The economy can be debated at length … and perhaps with no end.

Jared said...

Jamie I'm not sure who you are referring to when you say "conservatives". The true conservatives, like the late William F. Buckley have already disavowed him. Bush has spent more and expanded the reach and power of the federal government more than any other president in history, if he's a conservative than the word has no meaning.

rob said...

jamie, i used to defend bush too, much like you are right now. i would cherry pick at his real accomplishments, and totally distort the reality of his failures (so that they, too, looked like "accomplishments").

but then i read "zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance", and i was struck by a particular epiphany the author had in that book, when he noticed that the more he felt the need to defend something, and the more strength and vigor and devotion he committed to that defense, the more he realized he was just overcompensating for his own doubts.

i don't mean to presume that you are also overcompensating for your doubts... i'm just saying, that's when i stopped defending bush. the change in me was nearly instantaneous.

it was a good book.

i recommend it.

(tho i recommended it to one of the two odd-couple bloggers, and i don't think she got past page 6 ;)

Chrissie said...

Hi Rob

i believe she made it to page 30 or 40 before retiring the book "for another time."

but she DID read Generation Me, which you also recommended and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jamie said...

Hah! Ah, the transforming power of books—well Rob there’s nothing wrong with epiphanies; they happen so rarely we truly have to appreciate them when we experience one. It’s funny; I have been meaning to pick up “zen” for a while, so thanks for the reco. So, you think I’m distorting things. Well, I think you’re distorting things. I guess we’ll just have to leave it at that before we get into one of those “Well so’s your mom!!”-type exchanges. BUT lemme just address Jared for a sec (I’m not normally such a last-word freak, I swear)

Jared, the conservative Bush-fans I’m referring to are the ones who supported (and are grateful for the enactment of) his sweeping tax cuts, his contributions to school vouchers being declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, his successful appointments of Roberts and Alito (two extremely strong conservative minds), his installing of anti-ballistic missile defenses (that Reagan promise from years ago) and his undeniable furtherance of the pro-life movement. I wasn’t aware that Mr. Buckley “disavowed” W, so you must have information that I do not, but the proof is in his actions. I have faith that history will remember this man as a great conservative president—ya know, after all the dust settles from his bizarrely low approval rating.

Anonymous said...

"Even Poland points and laughs at our children. And they're Polish."

This is a rude and insulting remark and it is beneath you. I have always loved your column and then saw this and needless to say, I was dissapointed.