Thursday, January 22, 2009
The contrast was already immense.
One black, one white. One tall, one short.
One that went to Harvard for graduate school on his own merits, while the other attended Yale arguably not based on his own accomplishments.
One was leaving town for good. The other, preparing for a job only felt by 43 men, including the one he was replacing. And if you have enough time on your own hands, the lists of differences probably expand to the number of people in the District of Columbia in the last week.
But there was one defining moment yesterday that could be cited as a main source of how these two men are so far apart.
When George W. Bush, the 43rd President with disapproval ratings ranging from the 65 to 80%, took the walk down Capitol Hill for the final time, he wasn’t greeted to sparse claps or even the notorious awkward silence.
He was besmirched with boos.
Boos so bad that you had Chris Matthews on MSNBC say, “Don’t do this, bad form, bad form here.” Boos so bad that you had Rachel Maddow, never one to feel sorry for the man who was the centerpiece of her “Lame duck watch” in his final days of office, cautiously say, “That is not what I expected.” Boos so bad that they just weren’t even boos, because they transformed into a song that plenty of sports fans are familiar with.
“Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye.”
It was so brutal for Bush that the band had to start playing in order to drown out the boos. But it was way too late. The damage was done, the image already embedded into our heads.
Ask yourself this: Can you ever remember any outgoing President getting booed in his final minutes of office, on the day of his successor’s inauguration? If you couldn’t, then you won’t have to struggle with that question anymore, because an experience has been given. For on a day of happiness and unity unlike any other in Washington D.C. (and this country) has ever seen, it also had to produce a historical paradigm of disgust and disapproval like never before.
It is what the country as a majority feels about Bush and Dick Cheney, the latter rolled out in a wheel chair after pulling a muscle in his back moving out. That a decent percentage of the crowd showed their dissent in such a way, on such a day, fully exhibits the current feelings on the ongoing Administration being the obverse of the incoming one.
They couldn’t give a damn about decorum.
I shed no tears for this cabinet that has left town, and for all the damage that has been done not only to this nation, but on the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the murdered in Iraq, and even despite a much ballyhooed spending spree on AIDS in Africa, a refusal to even send condoms over towards the continent based on that spending consisting of abstinence only program.
That amalgamation of narrow mindedness and hawkish behavior deserves to at least get booed, let alone possibly even something more embarrassing and defecating.
However, it was a stunning thing to witness, right before the more prominent moments of the day took place. Aretha Franklin singing, Rich Warren giving an uninspiring invocation (especially compared to Joe Lowery’s wonderful benediction), the swearing in slips up thanks to John Roberts, and Barack Obama officially becoming the 44th President, the first African-American to hold the coveted office.
Two million cheered in unison, whether they could see him or not. For some, it was their first “New Year’s” in eight years. A role reversal of emotions in a span of 60 minutes for two different men.
And before Bush and his wife got on his helicopter to take the journey back to Texas, they and the Obamas gave each other final hugs. Who knows if those hugs were really genuine or heartfelt? Only those four individuals do.
But on this ultimate day of transition, even with their final embrace, these two men stood totally astray from one another.
180 degrees away, on two direct alternate universes. Where one leaves with boos and song chants like he has just lost in the game of “Public approval” forever, while the other starts his intense journey with a large portion of the nation, of all races and religious, fully behind him.