20 February 2013: Presidency should be about jobs, not legacy

Presidency should be about jobs, not legacy

The President gave his State of the Union address last week.  As a good citizen, I suppose I should’ve watched, but I couldn’t find the time.  Actually, I could’ve, but I chose not to.

The next day’s headline blared something about if he wants to secure his legacy, he needs to act quickly.  I thought about that and wondered whether Abraham Lincoln fretted about his legacy.

Lincoln was convinced he would lose the 1864 election due to decisions he made, especially the one about emancipating the slaves.  By so doing he angered the northern Democrats.  Today we call such Democrats “blue dogs,” who are economically liberal but reactionary on social issues.

Because Lincoln didn’t worry about securing his legacy, he is rightfully acclaimed as our greatest president, at least by Americans north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Unreconstructed rebels remain convinced he was the Great Satan, the perpetrator of the Yankee War of Aggression.  Iranian fundamentalists see America as the Great Satan.  Fundamentalism is fundamentalism, but fundamentalists will never get that.

I admire President Obama.  I had my doubts when he was first elected, wondering if he were truly liberal and simultaneously anxious about and frustrated with his desire to make nice with a Republican leadership whose idea of compromise is my way or the highway.  Since then he’s proved his liberal credentials—see ya, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—and has shown his mettle under fire standing toe to toe with the Party of No.

I’ve yet to read or watch the clip of his speech.  I will when time allows.  I hear it is chock full of good, sound progressive positions, enough to warm the cockles of every liberal heart with the added touch of causing Republican angst to be full-blown apoplectic.  Nice.

Still, the tone of the press coverage, perhaps unfair to Obama, seems to be not about what’s best for the country but how the man will be remembered in history.

Let’s assume there is a dram of truth to that, and if so, Obama is far from alone.  Of late, candidates for high elected offices seem more concerned about image rather than issues.  George W. Bush wanted to prove his manhood vis-à-vis his daddy, so started a war on false pretext that caused horrific death and drained a trillion dollars from our treasury.  But he’s now known as a war president, so maybe it was all worth it.

Mitt Romney was a poster child for ego.  Mitt, like he always had been, was all about Mitt.  Even righties detested him.

A good friend told me of a line Mo Udall, Sen. Mark Udall’s father, said about politicians.  Good ones are like successful football head coaches: They know the game and how it’s played and executed, yet understand that in the end it means nothing.  I recall Shakespeare saying much the same through “devilish” Macbeth.

Life, a poor player, strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage and heard no more, “is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury / Signifying nothing.”

William Faulkner read that line, said “hmm,” and titled his classic work The Sound and the Fury which is about a dysfunctional Southern family coming apart at the seams.  Other great Southern authors echo that theme, notably Pat Conroy in Prince of Tides.

Perhaps it’s not fair to our rebel cousins to think family dissolution resides solely in their realm.  It’s a universal theme knowing neither geographical nor cultural boundary.  Of course those in the midst of the dissolution are oblivious to it and go on as everything is right as rain.

Eckhart Tolle defines ego as “a collective dysfunction, the insanity of the human mind.”  It’s not an aspect only of the individual; families and nations also identify with their egos, falsely thinking they are their ultimate selves.

Jean-Paul Sartre noted “The consciousness that says ‘I am’ is not the consciousness that thinks.”  Tolle explains that “when you are aware you are thinking, that awareness is not part of thinking.”  Who owns one’s thoughts?

To me the Broncos winning the Super Bowl is important.  A friend, though, wonders why a ball can and should have points.  I suppose he’ll never get it, but then, neither will I.

Call me crazy.

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