by Bob Cesca
Nearly ten years ago, on December 19. 2007, I published my official endorsement of Barack Obama. For much of the previous year, I assumed Hillary Clinton would be the nominee (early shades of 2015-16’s conventional wisdom). She was safely ahead in the polls and even the Republicans were prepping to face Hillary in the general. It was Hillary’s time, I thought, so I better wrap my head around the idea of more Clintons. But then I watched then-Senator Obama’s Jefferson-Jackson speech in Iowa, delivered without a prompter (one of the rules of the event). Politically speaking, it was a mind-blowing experience. I didn’t think characters like Obama existed in real life — and, better yet, he had a real chance to win.
I was sold. From that point forward, Obama was my guy.
The next morning, I began writing my endorsement. I wish I could say I called everything precisely as it occurred in the subsequent years, but I didn’t. In my defense, however, I forecasted enough of his presidency to save face. For example:
I’m proud to say that I don’t agree with the senator on everything. But it doesn’t matter because this campaign is about much more than individuals and their pet issues. This is about the re-acquisition of an ideal — of a benevolent greatness which has been stolen away from us.
I see in Senator Obama an historic character who fits within my persnickety and idealistic template for the presidency — and this time around, it happens that my idealistic choice has a realistic chance to win. So this isn’t necessarily an endorsement based on ideology, but an endorsement based on that which is required from an historical perspective.
This is more or less the character we observed through two terms: a man who’s eminently presidential with an almost unprecedented gift for being thoughtful, disciplined and consistently rational — a wickedly awesome combination wrapped in a level of charisma the likes of which few have surpassed. Regardless of whether you agree with him on policy, his presidentialness ought to be undisputed. Evaluating Obama through the eyes of political science, thus stripping away ideological bias, it’s undeniable that while not all of his choices were laser-precise, Obama invariably comported himself in a way that seldom if ever embarrassed us and, more often than not, made us proud.
Even if we strip away the historic qualities that make Obama a living legend, his behavior as chief executive was a gift, and in more ways than just legislative accomplishments. In my endorsement, I pilloried then-President Bush like so: “If there’s any justice left in this nation, history will record that President Bush was an entirely inadequate tool; a bungling villain whose early popularity grew out of a traumatic and patriotic need to support the office regardless of who occupied it.” Indeed, throughout the Bush years, we were subjected to a constant state of unsteadiness. We never quite knew what might happen next — what form of embarrassing devilry was on deck — a feature of the forthcoming Trump presidency, by the way, that’ll far surpass the worst Bush could muster. Obama’s presidency was a gift in that we proceed through our daily lives without perpetually worrying about whether the president would somehow humiliate us with an egregious gaffe, brain fart or, worst of all, another kneejerk war. One of Obama’s finest and most valuable attributes was that he allowed us to rest assured knowing that a smart, disciplined man — not given to whimsy or irrational blurting — was manning the controls.
Now that Trump is on his way to the big chair at the Resolute Desk, I suspect liberals and many conservatives alike will long for such a relative sense of calm from the White House.
Again, it was a gift.
As I watched the president’s farewell address in Chicago Tuesday night, I thought about how lucky we’ll be if we see a president of Obama’s quality ever again, knowing that a colossal bag of gargoyles, complete with yellow hair and anus mouths, has been released into the world with little hope that we can herd them safely back into captivity. Now that we’ve stupidly elected a president, Trump, who’s systematically destroying what it means to be presidential, the prospects of one day returning to time when steadiness and rationality rule the day will be more difficult than ever to achieve because, like it or not, the rules of the presidency are being rewritten with every screechy tweet.
It’s the rare presidentialness of Barack Obama that so many conservatives and liberals alike never recognized, even given the contrast between Obama’s rousing farewell address and Trump’s dismal, bungled Wednesday press conference in which he, once again, embarrassed the nation by spooning with Putin.
Regarding the far-left’s reaction to Obama, specifically, you’ve probably heard the insufferable lament from certain liberals — the “I’m disappointed in Obama” gripe. They have no idea the epic disappointments they’re about to experience under President Trump. Furthermore, if you happen to be one of the leftists who’s disappointed in this historically monumental commander-in-chief, I urge you to take a few years to study up on the American presidency and national politics. A little know-how will go a long way to understanding the constraints and challenges of the presidency from a systemic point of view — a point of view that’s deeper than what can be conveyed in a Facebook meme. Once you’ve absorbed the intricate science of the presidency, report back and tell me again how disappointed you were. My guess will be not at all — not any more.
Some of these liberals gave me hell for eight years because I would often give Obama the benefit of the doubt, knowing his historic quality. Honestly, I stand by 99 percent of what I wrote in support of Obama, and I strongly believe history will vindicate it — if it hasn’t already. In fact, it’s safe to assume that many of the tears shed during his farewell address were shed by the formerly disappointed leftists who haunted my comments and Twitter mentions, accusing me of being an Obamabot.
Knowing that Obama is leaving office with an historically strong approval rating, it’s safe to assume there are many more Obamabots today than there were prior to Election Day. It’s also safe to assume that at Noon on January 20, everyone from hardcore leftists to moderate Republicans will identify as latent Obamabots.
In my 2007 endorsement, I wrote: “But after seven years in this Dark Age, I’ve almost forgotten what it was like to have a real president occupying the White House: a president who, even if I disagreed with his policies and ideology, dignified the office with a stature that symbolized the awesomeness of America.”
I never thought we’d be here again, facing down the prospect of another Dark Age in the American experience, and it won’t take long before we ache for the light again. Some of us already are. I hope we don’t forget the gift of Barack Obama — what it was like to have a real president occupying the White House.
Thank you, Mr. President, for reminding us what it means to be presidential. Thank you, Mr. President, for making us proud. Thank you, Mr. President, for my healthcare. Thank you, Mr. President, for rescuing the economy and, with it, my financial life and career. Thank you, Mr. President, for being the president I anticipated back in 2007 and for never wavering from that ideal. And at the risk of asking for too much, please don’t go away. Stay close to a microphone. We’re going to need you and Mrs. Obama to remind us who we are as we careen through the treachery and madness of the Trump years.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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