IT ISN'T at all surprising that in the brief moments following the inauguration the Obama naysayers are manning the parapets to repudiate the legitimacy of his 9.5 million vote victory. Fine. If the 300 Spartans who decided to take on the Persians at Thermopylae could express their dissent with such heavy odds against them, why not the minority unraveled dissidents who want the new president to fail? My favorite appeared in a letter to the editor of the Plain Dealer who strongly suggested that as president, Obama, who had not yet warmed up his chair in the Oval Office, had failed to fulfill his campaign promises! Even the Romans displayed more patience in the building of their wonderful city.
The transition was a learning experience for me. In the midst of this mammoth event, with upward of 2 million people gleefully on hand on a frigid day, this TV viewer had to confess that I didn't know there were that many happy people left in America. But who could dispute the evidence? It's a start.
I don't question the value of a loyal opposition in a free society. But it should offer thoughtful alternatives rather than churlish disagreement and invective. Unless I've missed something, it is one thing to be opposed to, say, government bailouts, but another to walk away from the scene of this presumed crime without offering an alternative to ease the threat of a depression. For too long we were reassured by George Bush, Dick Cheney and their economic gurus that the fundamentals of our economy were "strong". Such nonsense only served to delay a much earlier response to a grave problem.
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In the season of the Super Bowl, it is easy enough to think about the political losers whose season ended last November. My choices (you will have others) are as follows:
1. Sen. Joe Lieberman: A pathetic man of no credibility who sold out Barack Obama (who once supported Joe) and appeared stuck to John McCain with Crazy Glue throughout the campaign. His political ambitions were never clearly expressed, but no doubt Joe, the Democrat-Republican-Independent, fancied himself to be the secretary of state in a McCain administration. Keep him in mind for the new version of Trivial Pursuits.
2. Karl Rove: You could start numbering his days as a "political genius" in 2006 when the GOP fell as loudly as Jericho's walls. It only got worse in 2008 when he reappeared in a number of roles in a failed attempt to lead his party out of the woods. Didn't happen, even though he merited a seat on the plane that took Bush & Co., back to Texas. His best hope now is to get appointed water commissioner in Crawford.
3. Alan Greenspan: The Ancient Wizard of Oz for the Bushies who continued to reassure everybody (with only the mildest of warnings to the contrary) that the financial system was doing just fine. How could anybody be paid so much to be so wrong? No further comment necessary. I would, however, caution you against hiring him to do your taxes.
4. Donald Rumsfeld: He didn't even manage to finish the game. But he did manage to leave Bartlett with some extraordinary quotations. Most notable: "Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."
5. Scooter Libbey: Even though his sentence was commuted, for all of his servility as Cheney's chief of staff, he stood out as the Bush administration's singular fall guy.
6. Rudy Giuliani: More than any of his fellow GOP candidates his concept of a national campaign was deranged. Once he had exhausted his rise from 9/11, he sounded like he was a candidate for a seat in the Bronx. He won't be back. Who would have him?
7. Richard Perle: He continued to insist as a hawkish Bush insider that the Iraqis would be so enamored of Dubya that they would dedicate a big plaza in Baghdad to the president within 6 months of the U.S. invasion. (He later became less specific about the date, but not about the sea of Iraqi loyalists, all polls notwithstanding. )
8. Sarah Palin: We can't forget her because to this day she won't let us forget her. She was the female equivalent of Dan Quayle, who happened to be a bit luckier because George the First managed to win in spite of Dan. Palin won't go away because she thinks she has something to prove, to the delight of her Republican supporters. No matter, she's a loser and will eventually find out the hard way that Alaska is not...oh...Saskatchewan?
9. Alberto Gonzalez: He easily made the list on the first ballot. Other than his determined loyalty to George Bush, he proved to be totally out of his league as attorney general - and paid dearly for it. And could pay even more.
10. John Ashcroft: As attorney general he may have ordered the most controversial coverup in his department's history - the draping of two partially nude statues in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice. There was no recovering from that idiotic stunt. (P.S. The Florentines didn't take the hint. The glorious sculpture of Michaelangelo's David remains stark naked to this day. Even the children of countless tourists who gaze up at the towering marble get to look at it as long as they want to.
Ed. Note: I purposely left George Bush and Dick Cheney off the list. Although they forfeited any claim to honorable service, they were a term limited team and quietly left town with 22 pct. and 13 pct. approval ratings , respectively, and their bags packed. For good, we can hope!
Ed. Note: I reserved a special honorable mention and lifetime achievement award for the classy exit of John McCain, who cast off his nasty campaign image to repeatedly extend all courtesies to Barack Obama.